Cluster Headaches refer to a group of severe headaches that usually occur on one side of the head. They can occur for several weeks up to few months. They can also come in cycles otherwise known as cluster periods. Most people who suffer from cluster headaches have one to two cluster periods every year. A cluster period typically lasts for 1 month or more.
Up to now, medical experts have not yet established the clear and direct cause of cluster headaches, although genetic factor seems to raise the risk.
Other experts say that cluster headaches are caused by problems in the brain called hypothalamus, the area of the brain that produces hormones that control body temperature, hunger, moods, sexual drive, sleep, thirst, and hormonal releases from pituitary and other glands.
And there are certain things that can trigger the onset of cluster headaches.
Common triggers include:
- drinking alcohol
- sleeping problems
Nitrates are substances that are found in aged cheeses, cured meats, wine, and some medications.
Histamine is the seasonal allergy known to trigger headaches.
- increase in body temperature
Increases in body temperature can occur during exercise, taking of a hot bath, or getting angry or frustrated.
- pain in the head
As for the symptoms, the most obvious is of course pain in the head. But it's not just any pain. Cluster headaches inflict sudden pain that can be described as deep, stabbing pain felt in, around or behind one of the eyes. This pain usually reverberates to the other parts of the face including the cheek, jaw, temple, forehead and upper teeth. The pain can last for 30 to 45 minutes.
Cluster headaches typically happen around the same time every day, although they can also happen at any other time. In a day, it's possible to have one up to eight headaches.
Other symptoms include:
- watery eye
- drooping eyelid
- stuffy or runny nose
It's always a good idea to keep a headache diary that can provide helpful facts to you as well as your doctor about your condition. This will be beneficial for the management of your headaches. Jot down the occasions when the cluster headaches happen and how long they last. Write the possible triggers that may have caused for the headache's onset.
Share this information with your doctor so he/she can help you in formulating a plan to manage your pain. You may be asked to undergo tests such as a CT scan or MRI.