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Cluster Headache
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A cluster headaches is a painful headache that occurs in a cyclical pattern or cluster. Bouts of frequent attacks (clusters) may last from weeks to months, usually followed by remission periods when the headaches stop completely. The patterns vary from person to person but most people have 1-2 cluster periods per year. Cluster headaches strike quickly and without warning.

Typical signs and symptoms include:

A cluster headaches is a painful headache that occurs in a cyclical pattern or cluster. Bouts of frequent attacks (clusters) may last from weeks to months, usually followed by remission periods when the headaches stop completely. The patterns vary from person to person but most people have 1-2 cluster periods per year. Cluster headaches strike quickly and without warning. Typical signs and symptoms include:

    •Excruciating pain, generally around the eyes, but may radiate to       other areas of the face, head, neck and shoulders
    •One sided pain
    •Restlessness
    •Excessive tearing
    •Redness in the eye of the affected side
    •Stuffy and runny nasal passages in the nostril on the affected       side
    •Sweaty pale skin on the affected side
    •Swelling around the eye of the affected side
    •Reduced pupil size
    •Drooping eyelid

During a cluster period:

    •Headaches typically appear every day, sometimes several times a       day
    •A single attack may last 15 minutes to 3 hours
    •The attacks often at the same time within each 24 hour day
    •The majority of attacks occur between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.

The exact cause of cluster headaches is not known, but abnormalities in the hypothalamus likely plays a role. Other factors may include abnormal levels of hormones and neurotransmitters.

Risk factors include:

    •Being a man
    •Being an adult
    •Being black
    •Smoking
    •Drinking alcohol
    •A family history

There is no cure for cluster headaches. The goal of the treatment is to decrease the severity of the pain and shorten the headache period. Over the counter pain meds usually are not effective because the time the drug begins to work the headache is over. Short and long term medications are available from a doctor. Some prevention measures can be taken also. These include:

    •Stick to a regular sleep schedule
    •Avoid alcohol
    •Limit exposure to volatile substances
    •Avoid high altitudes (less oxygen)
    •Avoid nitrates