What are Cluster Headaches?

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Published on 30/08/2020 . 4 mins read
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Some types of headaches, such as migraines, can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. However, when comparing the pain of a cluster headache vs migraine pain, cluster headaches are probably the worst type of headache you can experience.

Thankfully, cluster headaches are a rare type of headache, and not everyone experiences it. Despite this, it is still important to know what causes these types of headaches, so that you can take steps to avoid experiencing them.

Just as important is knowing the different types of cluster headache treatment that you can do in order to lessen the pain.

Headaches: Types, Causes, Remedies

What are cluster headaches?

Cluster headaches are a type of headache that causes a lot of pain. In fact, cluster headaches are most commonly referred to as the most painful type of headache.

Cluster headaches usually occur at night, and are typically isolated around one eye, or one side of the head. Despite causing extreme pain and discomfort, cluster headaches are not life-threatening.

Regardless, the pain that cluster headaches can cause can severely affect a person’s daily life.

One defining feature of cluster headaches is that they happen in what are known as cluster periods. These cluster periods can last from a few weeks, to even a few months.

Afterwards, they can disappear as quickly as they started.

Sometimes, people who suffer from cluster headaches do not experience it for months, or sometimes even years before it comes back.

Another trait of cluster headaches is that they usually happen to people aged between 20-40 years old. In addition, men are also more prone to experiencing cluster headaches compared to women.

Thankfully, aside from being non-threatening, cluster headaches are a rare type of headache. There are also different types of cluster headache treatment available, which can make the pain more bearable.

cluster headache vs migraine pain

What causes cluster headaches?

When it comes to the causes of cluster headaches, scientists are not quite sure why they happen.

However, scientists have found that the pain is mainly caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the head.

When these blood vessels dilate, they apply pressure on the trigeminal nerve, which is the largest nerve in the cranium. It is because of this pressure that people with cluster headaches experience severe pain.

They also found that the hypothalamus, or the part of the brain responsible for releasing hormones, regulating body temperature, and the sleep cycle, was active during cluster headache attacks. This means that the hypothalamus might have something to do with why cluster headaches occur.

Studies done on cluster headaches found that there might be a genetic component to this condition. Other factors that increased the risk of cluster headaches include not getting enough sleep, and smoking.

Cluster headache vs migraine pain: how are they different?

There are a number of differences when it comes to cluster headache vs migraine pain.

Here are some of their main differences:

Cluster headaches affect a different part of the head

Cluster headaches vs migraine pain can feel and act differently. In the case of cluster headaches, it usually affects one side of the head, or the area around one eye.

In contrast, migraines can affect different parts of the head.

The type of pain is different

Cluster pain is usually described as a sharp, poking type of pain. Some even compared it to being stabbed with a hot poker in the eye!

Migraine pain is different in that it is a throbbing sort of pain that can linger for a while.

Cluster headaches tend to go away after a period of time

Despite being extremely painful types of headaches, cluster headaches, as the name implies, appear in clusters.

This means that a person suffering from cluster headaches might not experience them for months or even years.

In contrast, migraines can last for a long time, with some people starting to experience migraines from their teens well into adulthood.

Migraines can have triggers

One common trait of migraines is that they have triggers. For the most part, bright lights, certain drinks, hormonal changes, sleep changes, weather changes, etc. can all trigger a migraine. Migraines also usually have warning signs before the symptoms start to get worse.

Migraine Triggers to Avoid

In contrast, cluster headaches usually appear suddenly, and have no apparent triggers. They just appear all of a sudden, and can disappear just as fast.

What are the different types of cluster headache treatment?

Over-the-counter painkillers usually won’t do much for cluster headaches. This is because they usually take too long to take effect. This is why special forms of treatment are necessary.

Here are some ways that you can deal with cluster headaches:

  • Sumatriptan injections, which you yourself can inject twice a day. This is a type of prescription medicine that can help with cluster headaches.
  • Sumatriptan or zolmitriptan nasal spray is also available for those who do not want to inject the medicine.
  • Oxygen therapy is also a form of treatment for cluster headaches. Under oxygen therapy, you will breathe pure oxygen through a face mask.

These forms of treatment can usually relieve cluster headache pain within 15-30 minutes.

Learn more about headaches here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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