Of the many different types of headaches, cluster headaches are one of the least common. They are often severe and usually last for a few minutes to a few hours. Compared to other types of headaches, not much is known about these particular kinds of headaches, especially since they typically only occur in less than 1% of the population.
What Is a Cluster Headache?
A cluster headache is the sudden occurrence of pain that is localized to one area of the head. The localization of pain is most typically centered around one eye.
Primary or Secondary Type?
Although they can be severe, cluster headaches are considered primary and are not usually a symptom for an underlying condition.
The actual cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but there are some theories. The most prominent theory suggests that the occurrence of cluster headaches might be genetic. Other theories point to brain abnormalities or dysfunction.
The symptoms of a cluster headache are fairly described by its name. Cluster headaches are defined by the localization of pain and secondary symptoms. Along with often excruciating pain, sufferers of cluster headaches often experience light sensitivity, tearing, runny nose or sinus congestion, and constricted pupils among other symptoms. Typically, all of these symptoms are localized to the side of the head that hurts, but that isn’t always the case.
Cluster headaches are also known for reoccurring, often many times in one day. Some patients also experience many symptoms that are similar to migraines, such as distorted vision.
There are many medications that are indicated for treatment of cluster headaches, but these are typically prescribed medications that need to be overseen by a professional. Many patients have to try one or more medications before finding one that works for them.
How to Choose the Right Treatments
Finding the right treatment for cluster headaches depends on the patient, severity, and the rate of occurrence. Many people seek to prevent these types of excruciating headaches rather than treatment after occurrence. Others choose to seek professional help.
When to See a Professional
Anyone experiencing cluster headaches often should see a professional. Cluster headaches are uncommon, and are often mistaken for other secondary types of headaches. To determine for sure that you are experiencing cluster headaches and not something more dangerous, it is important to seek professional advice.
There are some medications that may help prevent the occurrence of cluster headaches, but their effectiveness tends to vary. Prevention is a work in progress, especially since the cause of cluster headaches is unknown. Not to mention the fact that the same thing doesn’t work for all individuals.
Thankfully, cluster headaches are very rare, but when they do occur they tend to be excruciating. Although this pain often lasts only a short time, recurrence is common. Sufferers of these types of headaches are best off seeking professional medical attention not only to determine the official diagnosis of cluster headaches rather than something more serious, but also to find a treatment that works for them.