Headaches are a common ailment, but they can be quite debilitating. A bad headache can make it hard to do your job, drive your kids around or simply get through your day.
If one headache can cause such a disruption, a series of them can be even more difficult to deal with. If you get intense headaches that seem to come in a pattern, you may be dealing with cluster headaches.
What are Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches are recurring headaches that may come around each day on a weekly or even monthly basis. The pain of the headaches is often intense and may occur on one side of your head or near one of your eyes.
How Often do Cluster Headaches Occur?
The frequency of cluster headaches may vary. The clusters may hit for only a week or may continue for months. When the clusters pass, you may have months or possibly years of peace before they return.
Some people may experience cluster headaches on a seasonal basis, so it can be easy to mistake them for allergy-related headaches if you are unfamiliar with them.
While the cluster period is going on, the headaches tend to take place each day, sometimes more than once a day. The headaches frequently happen at the same time of the day, often at night when you are in bed.
What are the Symptoms of Cluster Headaches?
Here are some of the symptoms that may accompany cluster headaches:
- Intense pain, typically located near one eye, though they could impact other parts of your head, face, shoulders or neck
- Teary eyes
- Droopy eyelid
- Red eyes on the side of a headache
- Swollen eyes on the side of a headache
- Feeling restless
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Flushed or pale face
- Some sweating
What Causes Cluster Headaches?
Though the exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, the nerves near your eye are believed to be a factor. That is why the pain is sometimes located near your eyes.
Men may be more likely to get these headaches. Though they may occur at any age, people usually get them between 20 and 50 years old.
Can Cluster Headaches Switch Sides?
Yes, it is possible for headaches to switch from one side of your head to another, though they tend to take place on one side most of the time.
What Happens After the Cluster Headaches Pass?
The pain may pass as quickly as it began. Though the pain should go away, it may leave you feeling really tired. These headaches can be an exhausting experience.
How are Cluster Headaches Treated?
Unless you plan on waiting until the cluster headaches pass, you should go to the doctor for treatment options. There are a number of possible treatments, from oxygen or local anesthetics to dihydroergotamine or triptans.
If you frequently suffer from headaches, your doctor can also help you with a preventative treatment option to help keep the headaches at bay.
Surgery is sometimes an option in extreme situations if other treatments are not working, though this is rare.