Cluster headaches are a rarer type of headache that are extremely painful. They affect men 5 times more than women and they usually develop between the ages of 20 to 40. The attacks occur in groups or clusters and are thought to be due to a disorder of the hypothalamus, the body's internal clock.
There are 2 main forms of cluster headaches:
- Episodic - Periods of attacks and remissions 1-8 attacks per day for 7 days to 1 year, between cluster periods pain free periods of at least 14 days.
- Chronic - No remissions, diagnosed after 1 year
- More severe pain than a migraine
- Excruciating, boring, burning pain localized around one eye
- Pain radiating behind the eye and into the temple
- Drooping of the eyelid
- Watering eye
- Blood shot eye
- Running or blocked nose
- Attacks lasting 15-180 minutes
- 1-3 attacks per day at the same time each day
- Onset of pain is often approximately an hour before bed
Smoking has been linked as a risk factor for these headaches. Although quitting does not provide any relief from current attacks, it may help to prevent future attacks. Those suffering with cluster headaches are also more susceptible to alcohol, stress, high intensity exercise and poor sleep quality setting off an attack. Therefore during an attack it is best to avoid these things and ensure you are getting good quality sleep.