Cluster headaches are relatively rare, but people who suffer from them can tell you that they are the most painful type of headache you will ever experience. Approximately 10% of the population is affected by migraines, but less than one-third of 1% of these people have experienced the symptoms of a cluster headache. Migraine headaches can be rather painful, but the pain brought on by migraines cannot hold a stick to the pain caused by a cluster headache. Very few people suffer from cluster headaches, less than 1% of the population actually.
What Does a Cluster Headache Feel Like
A cluster headache involves hot, stabbing pain that shoots from behind the eyes or the temple. Cluster headaches are reported to occur at the same time each day, and they can last for a few minutes or up to one hour and then disappear. The headache will re-appear around that same time the next day. Cluster headaches can strike without warning, out of the blue, and then they can last for weeks or months at a time.
Some research done on cluster headaches indicates that this type of headache is brought on by an abnormality in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a small gland that is in charge of regulating the biological clock. The hypothalamus can be influenced by the seasons, time of day, and various factors taking place for the individual.
One surprising element identified with cluster headaches is that they occur in men more often than women. One of out of five men suffer from cluster headaches, while one out of eight women suffer from cluster headaches. Most males who suffer from cluster headaches are between the ages of 20 and 50 years.
Migraines, on the other hand, affect more women than men. In fact, of the nearly 30 million Americans who are suffering from migraines, almost three times as many women as men are affected.
Cluster Headache Treatment Options
For cluster headaches, traditional over-the-counter treatments for migraines such as acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen, and even prescription drugs for migraines do not help much.
One alternative treatment for cluster headaches is the inhalation of pure oxygen for a few minutes. This kind of treatment is classified as an “abortive” treatment because it only works once the cluster headaches are occurring.
Triptans for Cluster Headaches
A class of drugs known as Triptans are being experimented with in the treatment of cluster headaches. Triptans are commonly used for migraine headaches. Triptans are injected into the body so they work quickly.
There are some nasal sprays that can be used to treat cluster headaches, but cluster headaches often cause the nasal passages to swell, so administering treatment via the nasal passage is not effective.
The treatments for cluster headaches simply have not been developed enough to offer relief for the majority of people who suffer from them.
In very extreme cases where the cluster headaches have lasted for several months, surgery may be a viable option. This is a complicated surgery process that involves removing part of the brain.
Hopefully, more research will be done to find safer treatment options for those who suffer from these brutally painful headaches.