While migraine headaches are more common in women, cluster headaches are more common in men. The pain, however, can often be as severe as that of a migraine headache. Scientists have not yet found the cause of cluster headaches, but they do know that these headaches are not related to any other illnesses or diseases, and they are not hereditionary.
There is usually no warning sign that a cluster header is about to start. They start suddenly, and the pain increases quickly. A person may feel pain and pressure behind one or both eyes, and the eye may even become red and swollen, not to mention watery. The nose may also become red, swollen, and mucous may drain.
Cluster headaches can last anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes or more, but unlike migraines, they are quickly repeating. The sufferer will usually experience cluster headaches around the same time each day for up to eight weeks. These periods of headaches may be experienced every few months or so as well. This makes cluster heads very scary if the sufferer does not expect it. Often, people think they have a serious health problem, even though they do not.
However, for sufferers, cluster headaches are a serious health problem in themselves. The pain is severe. When one head ends, they know that another one will come the next day or in a few hours. Some people report up to six or more heads each and every day of the cluster period.
While tests are not required to diagnose cluster headaches, your doctor may suggest them anyway, just to rule out other serious health problems. Recurring headaches such as these are often the sign of neurological problems, and that does not need to be ruled out. It is important that you tell your doctor how often the headaches are occurring, the severity of the pain, how long they are, and what time of the day they start. You should also discuss what you have done to try to heal the pain, what has worked, and what has not. Your doctor needs all of this information to better treat you.
Bright light, changes in sleeping patterns, alcohol, and stress often make cluster headaches worse, and will only serve to prolong the period that the headaches will reoccur, and the severity of the pain. Like migraine headaches, over the counter pain reliever may help reduce pain, but in most cases, you will need prescription strength medication.
Because cluster headaches often start on waking, many sufferers try to avoid sleeping. This only serves to make the headaches more intense, and the cluster period to last longer. So, although your instinct is to avoid the headache by not sleeping, you are in fact only making it worse. However, you should avoid sleeping at unusual times. For instance, if you do not normally take afternoon naps, do not start now – even though your drained from yet another cluster headache!
Doctors will often prescribe a medication that will help reduce the number of heads during the cluster period, and you will be told to take the medication at a certain time of the day, depending on when your headaches start. Your doctor may also prescribe an oxygen tank. Breathing in oxygen in large quantities often sees to relive the pain for many sufferers.
Because oral medication works very slowly, and the pain of cluster headaches is severe, you will most likely be prescribed an inhaler, an injection, or a rectal suppository. Other treatments may also be prescribed. One way to help reduce, and possibly even prevent cluster headaches is to avoid excess light by wearing special sunglasses designed for headache sufferers.
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