Cluster headache – Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment

Cluster headache

Cluster headache can last weeks to months in cycles before going away and inflict painful, one-sided agony up to eight times a day. The most impacted age groups are between 20 and 40. Preventive drugs, abortive therapies, and avoiding triggers are some of the treatments. Electrical stimulation is a more recent therapy.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are characterized by a string of brief yet severe headaches that occur daily for weeks or months at a time. They usually show up at the same time of year, like spring or autumn. As a result, cluster headaches are frequently misdiagnosed as allergies or work-related stress.

Experts are unsure of the exact reason. However, severe pain is felt around one of your eyes due to the involvement of a facial nerve. Most individuals find it so severe that they are unable to sit still and frequently pace while under attack. Although they often persist shorter than migraines, cluster headaches can be more intense.

Less than one in 1,000 persons get these headaches, making them the least common kind. More men than women experience them. Usually, they begin to appear before the age of thirty. Cluster headaches sometimes go entirely for several months or years, although they can also recur suddenly.


The following are typical signs of a cluster headache:

  • Sudden onset of discomfort, usually in the area behind or around the eye
  • Within ten to fifteen minutes, the pain peaks.
  • Anger or restlessness
  • Eyes that are watery or red
  • Congestion in the nose
  • Forehead perspiration
  • Drooping or swollen eyelids

Cluster headache symptoms might mimic those of other illnesses or injuries. See your doctor for a diagnosis at all times.


An extensive examination by a healthcare professional is necessary to diagnose a cluster headache. A headache expert, often known as a neurologist, will rule out other conditions that may be the source of the headaches. It’s likely that imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan will be necessary.

Treatment for Cluster Headache

The goal of treatment is to use medicine to both prevent and relieve your headache symptoms. In rare instances, your doctor could advise surgery if preventative care and pain management are ineffective.

Pain Medication

Once your headache starts, pain medication stops it. Among the treatments are:

  • Oxygen: When a headache first appears, breathing 100% pure oxygen might help reduce symptoms.
  • Triptan medications: Blood vessels are constricted by triptan medicines, such as sumatriptan (Imitrex), a nasal spray that can help reduce headache pain.
  • DHE: Dihydroergotamine (DHE), an injectable drug, frequently reduces cluster headache discomfort in five minutes or less.
  • Capsaicin cream: Treat the painful region with topical capsaicin cream.

Preventive Drugs

Medication for prevention stops headaches before they begin. Some drugs might not be 100% effective. Also, they can lessen how frequently you have headaches. Among these drugs are:

  • Blood pressure drugs that cause your blood arteries to relax
  • Steroid drugs that lessen inflammation in the nerves
  • An antidepressant drug that prevents your blood vessels from dilatation
  • Medicines that prevent seizures
  • Lithium Carbonate
  • Muscle relaxants


Trigeminal nerve impairment may be treated with surgery as a last option. For some individuals, the procedure can result in lasting pain alleviation. Nevertheless, there is a chance of major adverse effects, including irreversible facial numbness.

The Bottom Line

Painful headaches – cluster headaches might happen multiple times a day. Usually occurring in cycles, episodes might happen at around the same time every year. One side of the head may experience severe, stabbing pain as one of the cluster headache symptoms.

Pale complexion, nasal congestion, & restlessness might also be present. Cluster headaches do not yet have a treatment. To lessen the frequency and intensity of episodes, patients might, nonetheless, use a mix of short- and long-term drugs.