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Cluster headaches: causes, symptoms and treatment methods


Cluster headaches are one of the most severe and most painful types of headaches ever. They are more painful than migraines. They occur twice a year, but each time the headache occurs two or more times a day and for a continuous period that lasts for a week or months.

Cluster headaches: causes, symptoms and treatment methods
Cluster headaches: causes, symptoms and treatment methods

Cluster headaches are the least common type of headache, affecting more men than women, and they begin before the age of thirty. The main cause of its occurrence has not been identified, but the cause of severe pain is a nerve in the face that presses on the.

Read: Migraines 

Cause of cluster headache

The pain begins after a signal is released from the deepest area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which is the biological clock that controls sleep and wakefulness.

This pain comes after the expansion of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, and this expansion compresses the trigeminal nerve.

The trigeminal nerve is located near the eye and branches from it, and these branches reach the cheek, above the ear, below the jaw and the forehead, and this nerve is responsible for heat, pain, sensation, and blood pressure in general.

Cluster headaches can also be caused by antihistamines that are suddenly released to fight off allergens.

Types of cluster headache

  1. Episodic cluster headache: It occurs in a regular period of one week to a year, after which there comes a period of rest for a month or more, and it can change and become a chronic headache.
  2. Chronic cluster headaches: Headaches that occur regularly for more than a year, then stop for less than a month and then recur, can change to episodic headaches.

Information about cluster headache

  1. Pain occurs quickly, reaching its intensity within 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. The duration of its occurrence is short, from half an hour to an hour and a half, or it can last 15 minutes, or 3 hours, after which the pain disappears.
  3. When a series of attacks occurs, the pain is on one side, and it rarely moves to the other side.
  4. Headaches occur twice or more in a day, while other people have them 8 times a day, and other people once every other day.
  5. Cluster headache has been described as alarm headache, because it acts as a biological alarm that repeats every 24 hours, and it awakens the person from sleep, and this is the worst stage of headache, which is night headache.
  6. The location of the pain starts from behind or around the eye and then spreads to areas on that side such as the face, jaw, forehead, nose and scalp, and sometimes the person feels a pulse in the blood.

Cluster headache symptoms

  • The pain begins suddenly.
  • The pain begins behind or around the eye.
  • The eye is swollen and redder.
  • The face becomes red.
  • Tingling in the affected side or arms.
  • Pupil looks small.
  • Tears falling from the eyes.
  • runny nose.
  • Light direction sensitivity.
  • Anxiety, tension and speed of movement.
  • sweating.

Things that trigger cluster headaches during the attack period

  • smoking.
  • Alcohol.
  • exposure to bright light;
  • Climbing to high altitudes.
  • Inhalation of pungent odors.
  • Air temperature.
  • Foods that contain nitrates, such as meat.

Cluster headache treatment

Treatment of cluster headaches includes using many types of medications that work to relieve pain and reduce its occurrence, and surgery for some rare cases that do not respond to prevention or analgesia medications.

Analgesic drugs:

These medications are used as soon as a headache occurs and include:

  • Triptans: This medicine is called (Amitrex) and it is a nasal spray that works to narrow the dilated blood vessels, which relieves headache pain.
  • Oxygen: 100% pure oxygen helps relieve headaches and symptoms.
  • Topical cream: This type is applied to the painful areas as a topical treatment.
  • Dihydroergotamine: This medication relieves headache within 5 minutes after taking it.


These medications prevent headaches and stop them before they start by up to 90%:

  • Ergotamine: prevents blood vessels from dilating.
  • Blood pressure medications: help relax blood vessels (Kufra, Kalan, Verelan, Isoptin).
  • Steroid medicines: This type works to prevent nerve inflammation, such as (prednisone).
  • Valproic acid: This acid works to prevent convulsions, also (topiramate) can be used.
  • muscle relaxants.
  • Lithium carbonate.
  • Antidepressants.


Surgery is resorted to as a final solution after preventive medications and analgesics fail to relieve migraine pain and symptoms.

The trigeminal nerve is disrupted, so the pain stops in the long term, but then accompanies it.

Read: Tension headaches

Cluster headache home remedies

  1. Capsaicin cream is used as a topical analgesic. This can be obtained without a prescription. The cream is placed inside the nostril using a cotton swab.
  2. Breathing deeply through the mouth allows large amounts of oxygen to enter through the blood to the brain, and thus headaches can be controlled and relieved after calming the body.
  3. Melatonin supplements: It was found that people who suffer from cluster headaches have lower levels of the hormone melatonin, so making up for the deficiency by taking the supplement may help reduce headaches, because it regulates the sleep process and.
  4. Magnesium supplements can help treat cluster headaches, as it has been shown that people with different types of headaches have a low level of magnesium, so taking magnesium from its food sources and supplements may help in the treatment of cluster headaches.
  5. A group suffering from cluster headaches was given kudzu extract, and it was found after a while that it helps reduce the duration of headache attacks and reduce its pain.

Note: You must consult your doctor before resorting to these treatments, in order to avoid any dangers of misuse.

Prevent cluster headaches by following these tips

Although cluster headaches cause severe pain, they do not pose a threat to life, and there is no definitive treatment for them, but when you follow these tips, they help reduce the occurrence of attacks and reduce their recurrence, by avoiding several things:

  • smoking.
  • Alcohol.
  • Heat and bright sun.
  • Hot shower.
  • heights.
  • Preserved and unripe meats such as sausages.
  • Intense lighting.
  • Staying up for hours without getting any rest.