Different Types of Cluster Headaches

The suffering and misery headaches cause feel like a day-ruining monkey wrench thrust into our lives. Although it is a minor condition, it might make us ineffective and in pain.

Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias is quite a mouthful to say but it is a group of primary headache syndromes, with cluster headache being the most common among them. These episodes tend to occur in groups, or “clusters”, hence the term “cluster headache”. Brief and excruciatingly painful headache attacks recur several times daily.

Cluster cycles, or intervals without headaches, can persist for weeks or months and are typically separated by remission periods. Remission periods can extend for months or years. Chronic cluster headache sufferers do not experience remissions, or if they do, they last no longer than one month.

Often referred to as the most terrible headache of all, cluster headache has been described as an intense burning sensation and like a hot rod poking into the head.  It is so inexplicably painful that the mere mention of that is enough to start a headache attack.

On a scale of 10, a cluster pain is characterized as being a perfect 10 in severity, and typically, there is an inability to lay down still at all. Those with cluster headache attacks tend to pace around restlessly, be in rocking motions trying to avert pain, or occasionally even pound their heads hoping to make the pain go away as opposed to people with migraines who choose to lie down in a dark, quiet room. During a cluster attack, people seldom ever lay down.

Who suffers from it?

Cluster headaches typically begin between the ages of 20 and 40.  Contrary to what was previously believed to be the case, the proportion of men and women who have the disease has become more equal over time.

While experts are dedicated to conducting research and educating the public about cluster headaches, the number of Americans who suffer from it is believed to be between 200,000 and 1 million, although actual research has not been done to determine the precise figure.

It’s not a rare condition and there is a theory that the condition has a genetic component, but there’s not enough research done to establish a link. Although not all families pass this down, there are families and proof that they do.

The onset of cluster headaches is typically very swift in coming around. A small number of patients first notice visual abnormalities that resemble an aura, including light flashes, before the headaches start.

The majority of the time, headaches start a few hours after you go to sleep and are frequently so intense that they cause you to wake up. However, they can also start while you are awake.

Five to ten minutes after the headache first appears, the pain is at its worst. The most severe headaches typically last between 30 minutes and two hours, with each one lasting several hours.

Pain from a cluster headache often occurs behind or around the eye on one side of the head, though it can occasionally swap sides in some persons. It is described as a persistent, intense, piercing agony. People who experience it describe it as feeling like a hot poker is inserted into their eye. On the same side, the discomfort may radiate to the forehead, temples, teeth, nose, neck, or shoulders.

Types of Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches come in two types: episodic and chronic.


In cases of episodic cluster headaches (ECH), the headaches continue for a week to a year, then go away for a period of three months or more before returning.

Patients with episodic cluster headache frequently require therapeutic intervention between the onset of a flare-up and the establishment of effective preventive care. This strategy can frequently be helpful in reducing the negative effects of too quickly implementing a preventive therapy.


Chronic cluster headaches (CCH) can happen to someone who only gets them sometimes.  Over the course of more than a year, chronic cluster headaches develop on a regular basis, then subside for less than a month.

Histamine, nitroglycerin, or alcohol are common triggers for attacks in CCH patients.

In numbers, 90% of people have episodic cluster headaches, while only 10% have the chronic kind.

Either cluster headache kind can change into the other. For the span of a single cluster, attacks frequently recur between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.; attacks typically happen between these hours in most individuals.

Cluster headache prognoses are still difficult to predict. It is important to note that a  person suffering from episodic cluster headaches may develop chronic cluster headaches, and vice versa.  This is best explained when you check cluster headache clinical trials for specific medical information and breakthroughs.

In the long run, cluster headache tends to go away with age, with fewer episodes and longer intervals between episodes.

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