Cluster headaches are often characterized as some of the most intense and painful headaches a person can experience. They get their name for the cyclical nature of their onset, often coming in weekly or monthly bouts before going into remission for a time. While these headaches are not life-threatening, they are debilitating, causing patients weeks of agony and lessening the quality of life.
Once a period begins, the individual episodes of the headaches can differ in severity and length. Some people experience more attacks at night; others might have several headaches per day in intervals. These attacks can last from fifteen minutes to several hours.
Unlike migraines, persons suffering from cluster headaches often cannot identify the triggers for the cluster period, but once they start to experience headaches, traditional triggers like alcohol or medication can cause an episode. However, there are identified risk factors for cluster headaches.
How can you tell the difference between cluster headaches and a regular headache or a migraine? The following are the most common symptoms:
Rarely, the symptoms will mimic those of a migraine. However, if you’re experiencing cluster headaches, those symptoms also will be relegated to the affected or painful side of the body.
There are treatments to control headaches during an active period as well as preventative measures that can be taken during remission. Depending on your situation, your neurosurgeon may recommend surgical interventions such as sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation or other minimally invasive treatment options such as a Gamma Knife Radiosurgical procedure to manage your symptoms.