Cluster Headaches

What are Cluster Headaches?

A cluster headache is a severe headache on one side of the head, typically around the eye, that occurs periodically in groups or clusters. It is felt as an intense, stabbing pain in the head.

The headaches can occur every day, even several times daily. A single episode can last up to three hours or 15 minutes. The pain ends suddenly, decreasing in intensity and post-pain, you feel tired and weak.

Cluster Headaches

What are the symptoms of Cluster Headaches?

A cluster headache comes on quickly, typically without warning, although it may signal itself by a nausea-like sensation. Signs and symptoms of a cluster headache include:

  1. Intense one-sided pain behind or around one eye and in the face, head, and neck.
  2. Burning sensation.
  3. Excessive tear formation in eyes.
  4. Eye redness.
  5. Stuffy or runny nostril (on the painful side).
  6. Sweating on the face on the painful side
  7. Flushed face.
  8. Eye swelling.
  9. Eyelid drooping on the painful side.
  10. Sensitivity to light and sound.

What causes Cluster Headaches?

The exact cause of cluster headaches has not been established. Still, it is believed to be linked to activity in the brain's hypothalamus. This area acts like our internal biological clock, controlling circadian rhythms, body temperature, hunger, and thirst.

A cluster headache occurs when a nerve route in the hypothalamus is triggered. The trigeminal nerve controls your sleep and wake cycles and is located near the eye and travels across your forehead, cheek, down your jaw, and above your ear on the same side of the face. When this nerve is triggered, the pain radiates to these areas.

Studies found the hypothalamus to be highly active during cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches are also thought to be linked to the sudden release of the brain chemicals histamine or serotonin.

The triggers for cluster headaches include:

  1. Alcohol.
  2. Smoking.
  3. High altitude.
  4. Bright or harsh lights.
  5. Exertion or intense activity.
  6. Heat.
  7. Nitrates-containing foods.
  8. Strong smells.
  9. Family history.

What are the treatments for Cluster Headaches?

A thorough diagnosis by a neurologist will help determine the treatment path for cluster headaches. A series of procedures are employed to assess brain function and test your reflexes and nerves.

Imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or CT (Computerized Tomography) Scan may also be used to study brain activity.

The treatments for Cluster Headaches include:

  1. 100% oxygen therapy: breathing oxygen through a face mask.
  2. Pain-relieving medications and injections include prescription medicines for acute attack treatment and preventive treatment.
  3. Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (TVNS): Transcutaneous means entering the skin. TVNS involves a tiny device that stimulates the vagus nerve in the neck to reduce pain. A vagus nerve runs on each side of our body, starting from the lower part of the brain and running through the neck, chest, and stomach. Stimulating the vagus nerve helps electrical impulses reach the brain, changing brain activity to alleviate some conditions.
  4. Implanting stimulation device through surgery: The device emits tiny electrical currents that stimulate an area of the parasympathetic nervous system thought to be linked to cluster headaches.
  5. Surgery: It is used when most methods do not yield results.

When should I see a Cluster Headache specialist?

If you are getting severe headaches with the symptoms described above, if you are experiencing sudden changes in the intensity and duration of headaches, make an appointment with a neurologist.

American Hospital Dubai offers the best doctors and treatments for Cluster Headaches

American Hospital Dubai's Neurology Department has the most advanced treatments for Cluster Headaches.

Our highly experienced neurologists and specialists diagnose and treat all types of headaches using the latest and most advanced methods. Our treatments offer speedy and effective relief for Cluster Headaches through correct medication and lifestyle change recommendations based on your symptoms and medical and family health history.

Our expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, and multi-disciplinary and integrative treatment approach ensure you get the most effective treatment program to help you get back to your routine quickly and safely.