Cluster headaches are a succession of very brief but excruciatingly severe headaches that happen every day for weeks or months at a time. Typically, you get them yearly around the same time, such as in the spring or fall. Due to this, cluster headaches are frequently mistaken for allergies or stress at work.
Although the exact reason is unknown, a nerve in your face is thought to be responsible for the excruciating pain that surrounds one of your eyes. It’s so severe that most people can’t stay still and frequently pace throughout an attack. While they typically don’t last as long, cluster headaches can be more painful than migraines.
Less than one in 1,000 persons experience these headaches, making them the least common form though they are more prevalent in men than women. They typically begin before the age of 30. For months or years, cluster headaches may entirely disappear (which is known as going into remission), but they can return suddenly without much warning.
How do these cluster headaches happen?
When a nerve pathway at the base of your brain is activated, you experience cluster headaches. The hypothalamus, a deeper region of the brain that houses the “internal biological clock” that regulates your sleep and waking cycles, is the source of that signal.
The trigeminal nerve, which is the nerve in question, is what causes facial discomfort and heat sensations. It is next to your eye and has branches on the same side that go up to your forehead, over your cheek, down your jaw, and above your ear.
When it comes to managing cluster headaches, you have several options:
1) Lifestyle changes
You can prevent cluster headaches by taking these actions:
- Maintain a consistent sleep routine – A headache may start because of a routine alteration.
- Skip the alcohol – When you are experiencing a cluster series, beer and wine can cause a headache attack.
Prescription medicines may help when these headaches hit you. These include triptans, dihydroergotamine (DHE 45), octreotide, lidocaine, and oxygen. Referred to as “inhaled oxygen,” your doctor will let you breathe it in through a face mask for 15 minutes.
Your doctor can also prescribe preventive medicines to stop a headache before it starts, shorten a cluster, or make attacks less severe.
3) Nerve block
Occipital nerve block – Also called occipital nerve injection by doctors. The doctor will inject an anesthetic and steroid mixture into these nerves. They’re at the base of your skull, and headaches frequently begin there. Until a preventative may begin to act, this is a temporary treatment.
4) Nerve stimulation
If medications don’t work, other people turn to the following:
- Occipital nerve stimulation – A set of nerves is targeted by a device that your doctor surgically inserts at the base of your skull.
- Neuromodulation – These non-invasive devices are FDA-approved:
Cefaly – You apply electrodes to your forehead and attach them to a controller that resembles a headband to send impulses to your supraorbital nerve.
GammaCore – This device employs electrodes to deliver signals to the vagus nerve.
If everything else fails, surgery may be a possibility for those who experience cluster headaches continuously. Less invasive alternatives are becoming preferred over deep brain stimulation, which entails inserting an electrode deep inside the brain.
The trigeminal nerve, a major conduit for pain, is typically blocked during treatments. It regulates the area around your eyes, but if you make a mistake, it could weaken your jaw and cause you to lose feeling in your face and head.
6) Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises change your body in ways that keep you calm and reduce stress. They can also be an important treatment component for those suffering from tension headaches or migraines.
However, can they stand up to the excruciating pain of a cluster headache? Despite the lack of evidence to support it, some doctors believe they should be tried. After all, there is no risk, and there is no expense to you.
7) Alternative treatments
Consult your doctor about:
- Capsaicin – This painkiller may be sprayed on the nose for relief.
- Melatonin – This drug, which is effective in treating sleep issues and jet lag, may lessen headache frequency.
The effects of cluster headaches might last for several weeks or even months. They frequently arrive at the same time each day since they tend to follow patterns. They may also wake you up one or two hours after retiring to bed. The pain from these headaches at night could be worse than it is during the day.
Remember that not every cluster headache sufferer is the same. It may be challenging to go through trial and error to find ways to manage your cluster headaches, but it would be sensible to check cluster headache new treatment for the best and latest options suited for you.