Cluster headache

Head | Neurology | Cluster headache (Disease)


Cluster headache is a condition characterized by an increase degree of pain that is almost always on only one side of the head. Attacks can appear for 1 week to 1 year, set apart by periods of pain-free that last at least 1 month, possibly longer.

The pain occurs on one side of the head and it may be described as: burning, sharp and steady.

Typical signs and symptoms of a cluster headache include: excruciating pain, generally located in or around the eye, but may radiate to other areas of the face, head, neck and shoulders; restlessness; excessive tearing; redness in the eye of the affected side; sweaty, pale skin (pallor) on the face; swelling around the eye on the affected side of your face; reduced pupil size; drooping eyelid.

Causes and Risk factors

The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but abnormalities in the hypothalamus likely play a role. Unlike migraine and tension headache, cluster headache generally isnt associated with triggers, such as foods, hormonal changes or stress.

The following may trigger cluster attacks: alcohol and cigarette smoking; high altitudes (trekking, air travel); bright light (including sunlight); exertion; heat (hot weather, hot baths); certain medications; cocaine.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Tests, such as physical exam and MRI of the head, may be needed to rule out other causes of the headaches. Theres no cure for cluster headaches.

The goal of treatment is to help decrease the severity of pain, shorten the headache period and prevent the attacks. ...