A Glance into Cluster Headaches

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Cluster headaches are a type of headaches that occurs multiple times occurs over a period of time. Those with cluster headaches experience one to three headaches a day for a period of time. These episodes may last a range from two weeks to three months. Usually, these cluster periods would occur during the same time each year. Those who have cluster headaches would complain of constantly waking up one or two hours after going to bed.

These nighttime headaches would often be more severe than daytime headaches. Cluster headaches have been known to be linked to one’s circadian rhythm (a.k.a. your biological clock).  Cluster headaches are usually more intense than a migraine but do not last long as migraine headaches. Cluster headaches may disappear for a period of time that can range from a few months to a few years. However, they can reoccur without any warning. Cluster headaches are the least common form of headaches that affects less than one in a thousand people. Those who are affected with cluster headaches are usually younger than 30 years of age. This disease is more common in men than women.

The cause of cluster headaches is generally unknown. The headaches occur when the nerve pathway in the base of the brain is activated. The trigeminal nercie is the main nerve that is responsible for sensations. When this is activated, the trigeminal nerve causes optical pain that is a side effect of cluster headaches.

The trigeminal nerve also stimulates different sets of nerves that cause eye redness and tearing. The activation of the trigeminal nerves comes from the hypothalamus of the brain. Because the hypothalamus is in charge of one’s internal biological clock. Research and studies found that there is activation and stimulation of the hypothalamus during a cluster attack.

Cluster headaches are not associated with a brain condition such as an aneurysm or tumor.

Cluster headaches are common during certain seasons such as spring and fall. Because of the time of their occurrence, many would associate the symptoms to be allergies. Cluster headaches are common in people who drink and smoke excessively. During period, the person with the cluster headaches would be especially sensitive to nicotine and alcohol.

Cluster headaches come into their full effect five to ten minutes after the onset. The pain of the cluster headaches usually affects one side of the head. When a new period of headache starts, it will generally occur on the same side. The pain of the cluster headaches is described as a very intense and severe burning and piercing pain. Many describe it as a constant and throbbing pain. When the pain is so intense, the person with the cluster headach e is unable to sit still and will have to pace around during the attack. Usually, the pain would be located around the eye region.

Sometimes, the pain may radiate towards the forehead, temple, nose, upper gum, or cheek. The scalp may also be tender and the pulsing arteries can be felt as well.

Cluster headaches can usually last thirty to ninety minutes. However, some cluster headache periods may range from fifteen to three hours. The headache will usually disappear and then reoccur the next day. Between these headache attacks, the person will not feel any headaches. Most people with cluster headaches would get one to three headaches per day, generally during the same time each day (these are also called alarm clock headaches). Eight percent to 90 percent will have episodic cluster headaches that occur in periods lasting seven days to one year. These episodes will be separated by pain-free episodes of over fourteen days. In 20% of people, the attacks may be chronic. This means that there are less than 14 headache-free days per year.

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