Cluster Headache

Cluster Headache

Overview

Cluster headaches are highly painful, short-duration headaches that occur in clusters or rings. The attacks are usually short, but recur frequently, often at the same time each day. The cluster headaches usually last a few months before going into remission. Cluster headaches are rare and not life threatening. Medication is very helpful in providing symptomatic relief. Cluster headaches are typically associated with compression or an abnormality in a facial nerve.

Signs and symptoms

Cluster headaches are usually abrupt. The pain may be located behind one eye and radiate to other parts of the face. Patient may also experience redness, swelling and tearing of the affected eye, as well as restlessness and excessive sweating.

Causes

The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but studies suggest that it is linked to abnormalities in the hypothalamus (the body clock). It could also be caused due to pressure on the trigeminal nerve, which controls facial movement.

Risk factors

Men are more likely to develop cluster headaches than women. People with a family history of cluster headaches are at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Complications

Cluster headaches usually do not cause any permanent brain damage or pose any threat to the patient’s life. They do, however, interfere with the patient’s lifestyle and day-to-day functions.

Diagnosis

Cluster headaches are diagnosed on the basis of a patient medical history and a physical exam. The diagnosis is largely dependent on the patient’s description of their symptoms, and the duration and location of their headaches. The doctor may require some imaging tests and neurological tests to rule out other conditions.

Treatment

Treatment can reduce symptoms, shorten the time period of the head aches and prevent attacks. For severe prolonged cluster headaches, the patient may be administered oxygen or local intranasal anaesthetics for instant pain relief.

Prevention

At present, there are no preventative measures that can be taken to prevent cluster headaches. Once the condition has been diagnosed, the doctor may administer preventative therapies such as a nerve block or lithium carbonate, to try to prevent further attacks.

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