Cluster headache

Alternative Names

Histamine headache; Headache – histamine; Migrainous neuralgia; Headache – cluster

Definition of Cluster headache

A cluster headache is one-sided head pain that may involve tearing of the eyes and a stuffy nose. Attacks occur regularly for 1 week to 1 year, separated by long pain-free periods that last at least 1 month, possibly longer.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cluster headaches are a fairly common form of chronic, repeated headaches. They are more common in men than women. The headaches can occur at any age but are most common in adolescence and middle age. They tend to run in families.

Symptoms

A cluster headache begins as a severe, sudden headache. The headache most commonly strikes 2 to 3 hours after falling asleep, usually during the dreaming (rapid eye movement, or REM) phase. However, the headache may occur while you are awake. The headache tends to occur at the same time of day.

Signs and tests

Your health care provider can diagnosis this type of headache by performing a physical exam and asking questions about your symptoms and medical history.

Treatment

Treatment does not cure cluster headaches. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. The headaches may go away on their own, or you may need treatment to prevent them.

Expectations (prognosis)

Cluster headaches are not life-threatening and usually cause no permanent structural changes. However, they are chronic and often painful enough to interfere with work or lifestyle. Occasionally, the pain may be so severe that some people may consider self harm.

Review

Kevin Sheth, MD, Department of Neurology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 11/22/2010

Brain
Hypothalamus
Cause of headaches
Pain of cluster headache

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.