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Cluster Headaches are a rare and extremely painful kind of headache that usually occur on one side of the head and around the eye. Symptoms include intense pain, described as “searing” or “stabbing”, that may move to other areas around the eye, tearing or redness of the eye, a stuffy or runny nose and swelling around the affected area. Sufferers of Cluster Headaches describe them more as “attacks” since they can come on very suddenly and be severely painful. More males suffer with these painful headaches, while more females suffer with migraine headaches.
Unlike migraine headaches where rest in a dark room may help until the headache stops, those who suffer with the severe pain of Cluster Headaches find no relief from lying down. They may be restless and pace while enduring the painful attack.
The cluster headache attack can last from 15 minutes to 180 minutes compared to Migraines which last 4-72 hours. These headaches appear in clusters that last for 6 to 12 weeks. They may stop for months or even years before starting again.
If you aren’t sure which type of headache you may have, take a look at the chart below that compares the symptoms of Cluster Headaches to those of Migraines.
|Compare||Cluster Headaches||Migraine Headaches|
|Number of People Affected||• 1 million Americans||• 38 million Americans (28 million women)|
|Ages and Genders||• Between 20 and 50, usually males||• Between 25 and 55, more females than males|
|Length of Headache||• Cluster headaches are short and severe and peak within 45 minutes.
• Cluster headaches come on suddenly without warning.
• Last 15 to 180 minutes
|• Migraines are a longer headache that generally peaks around 2 to 4 hours.
• Migraine sufferers often have an aura before the headache occurs.
• Last 4 to 72 hours
|Frequency they Occur||• 1 to 8 cluster headache attacks in one day.
• Appear in clusters that last 6 to 12 weeks and then may stop for months or even years before starting again
|• 1 to 10 migraines per month
• Some people have chronic daily migraine – at least 15 migraine days per month
|Symptoms||• Searing, stabbing pain on one side of the head around the eye
• swelling, redness and tearing of the eye
• runny or stuffy nose.
• Occurs in patterns called clusters, with periods of frequent attacks that last from 6 to 12 weeks.
|• Throbbing headache on one or both sides
• visual disturbances called auras
• extreme sensitivity to sound, light, smell and touch
• numbness in extremities or face.
|Triggers||• Food or medicine with nitrates
• hydrocarbons such as petroleum solvents, perfume
|• Bright lights
• loud noises
• changes in sleep patterns
• exposure to smoke
• skipping meals
|How they are managed||• Oxygen therapy
• Alternative medicine and unconventional or illegal treatment to relieve pain
|• Over the counter pain relief that contains aspirin, caffeine and acetaminophen
• prescription medications such as opioids, barbiturates, and dexamethasone
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