Cluster Headache Treatment


Cluster headaches are among the most intense headaches and occur in cyclical patterns or cluster intervals. The cluster headache is characterized by significant pain in or around one eye on one side of the head. For example, one might experience intense cluster headaches behind the left eye. Cluster episodes last weeks to months and are frequently followed by remission periods, during which the headaches stop. There are no headaches for months or even years during the remission phase. Cluster headaches are not prevalent and do not represent a danger to life. With the right care, cluster headache occurrences can be reduced in length and severity. Medication can also aid in reducing cluster headache frequency. Episodic cluster headaches and chronic cluster headaches are the two main types of cluster headaches.

Cluster Headache Symptoms & Characteristics


You may initially suffer migraine-like nausea and an aura before a cluster headache strikes quickly and unexpectedly. The following are some of the most typical headache signs and symptoms:

  • A painful condition that begins in, behind, or around one eye and extends to your face, head, and neck.
  • Pain on one side
  • Anxiety
  • Tearing excessively
  • Redness or swelling around the affected eye
  • A congested or runny nose on the affected side
  • Sweating on the forehead or face
  • flushed face or pale skin (pallor)
  • drooping eyelid on the affected side
  • On the affected side, a cluster headache might produce distinct migraine-like symptoms such sensitivity to light and sound.

A cluster headache can cause specific migraine-like symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound, though on one side.

cluster headache treatment

Cluster Period Characteristics

The length of a cluster phase might range from a few weeks to several months. The start time and duration of each cluster period may be constant across time. For instance, cluster periods can occur every spring or every fall on a seasonal basis.

Episodic cluster headaches are a common headache kind. The duration of episodic cluster headaches ranges from a week to a year, and they are followed by remission periods that can persist for up to a year before returning.

Cluster Period:

  • Headaches occur daily, sometimes countless times a day.
  • An episode might last anywhere from 15 mins to three hours.
  • The episodes frequently happen at the same time every day.
  • Most attacks occur at night, 1 to 2 hours after bed.

The pain disappears as swiftly as it began, with the intensity suddenly decreasing. Most people are pain-free yet fatigued after an attack.

When To See A Doctor

When you start experiencing cluster headaches, take the time to consult your doctor so you can rule out other disorders. Despite their severity, headaches typically don’t indicate an underlying health condition like a brain tumor or aneurysm. However, headaches can occasionally indicate underlying severe conditions such as a brain tumor or ruptured blood vessels in the brain. In addition, if you have a history of headaches, see your doctor if you feel different symptoms or the pattern changes. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, seek medical help right once:

  • Headaches that may be sudden and severe, like thunderclaps.
  • It may indicate a stroke, meningitis, encephalitis, or brain tumor. Chest pain that is accompanied by a fever, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, numbness, or speaking difficulties
  • The headache can worsen when a head injury happens, even if it is a minor fall or bump.
  • An unexpected, severe headache
  • The intensity and pattern of a headache that changes over time

What are the Cluster Headache Causes

Cluster headaches have no apparent cause, but their pattern suggests that defects in the body’s biological clock (hypothalamus) are responsible. In contrast to migraines and tension headaches, cluster headaches are not associated with triggers, such as certain foods, hormones, or stress. However, a splitting headache may occur quickly after drinking alcohol during a cluster period. During cluster headaches, many people avoid drinking alcohol. You might also be at risk if you take medications that treat heart conditions, like nitroglycerin.

Risk factors

Risk factors for cluster headaches include:


Cluster headaches are more common among men.


Cluster headaches are most common in people between 22 and 52, although they can affect anyone at any age.


Smokers are more likely to suffer cluster headache attacks. The headaches do not usually disappear after quitting smoking.

Alcohol Use

A person who suffers from cluster headaches may be more likely to suffer an attack when drinking alcohol during the cluster period.

Family History

It may increase your risk if you have a parent or sibling who has suffered from cluster headaches.

Cluster Headache Diagnosis

A specific pattern characterizes the pain and attacks of cluster headaches. You should describe your headache, the location and severity of the pain, and any symptoms you are experiencing to make a proper diagnosis. The frequency and duration of headaches are other vital considerations.

Your doctor will use some approaches to identify the type and cause of your headache.

Neurological Examination

Your doctor may detect neurological disorders by performing a neurological examination. An examination for cluster headache patients is usually expected. During the assessment, your doctor will test your senses, reflexes, and nerves to determine how well your brain functions.

Imaging tests

A doctor might suggest imaging tests if you experience unusual or complicated headaches or if your neurological examination is abnormal. This is to rule out other potentially severe causes of head pain, such as a tumor or an aneurysm. Tests that are commonly performed on the brain include:


It produces detailed images of your brain and blood vessels using a strong magnetic field and radio waves.

CT Scan

An X-ray is used to construct detailed cross-sectional images of your brain.

Cluster Headache Treatment at Painmd

Cluster headaches cannot be cured. However, prevention of the same is possible. During treatment, pain is curtailed, headache spans are shortened, and attacks are prevented. Cluster headaches are difficult to diagnose and treat because they arrive suddenly and disappear within a short period. As a result, medications with an immediate effect are required. Pain relief can be provided quickly by certain types of acute medicines for cluster headaches. The following therapies have shown the most promising results in treating cluster headaches in both their critical and preventative stages.

Acute Cluster Headache Treatments

At Padda Institute, our specialists offer treatments for acute cluster headaches. The chronic cluster headache treatments offered are as follows:

Oxygen Treatment For Cluster Headaches

The treatment includes using a mask to inhale pure oxygen, providing dramatic relief. Results are usually felt within 15 minutes of this inexpensive, safe procedure. The general experience of oxygen is secure and without complications. As an oxygen treatment, oxygen cylinders and regulators must be carried with you, which can be inconvenient and sometimes impossible. Many people find portable units impractical, even though small mobile units are available.

Triptans For Cluster Headaches

Sumatriptan injections (Imitrex) are also helpful for treating acute cluster headaches. Patients may receive their first injection under medical supervision. Nasal sprays may be effective for some people but aren’t as effective as injections for most people and may take longer to work. However, people with severe hypertension or heart disease shouldn’t consume sumatriptan. Zolmitriptan (Zomig), another triptan medication, can also relieve cluster headaches. This medication may be an option if you cannot tolerate other fast-acting treatments. It is challenging to treat cluster headaches acutely with oral medications because they are relatively slow to work and often ineffective. Always share your medical history with your doctor before starting any medications.

Octreotide For Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches can be effectively treated with octreotide (Sandostatin), an injectable synthetic version of the brain hormone somatostatin. It is less effective and fast-acting than triptans in relieving pain.

Local Anesthetics For Cluster Headache

Some patients may experience relief from cluster headache pain when the lidocaine is given nasally (intranasally).

Dihydroergotamine For Cluster Headache

Some people suffering from cluster headaches may benefit from injectable dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45). A similar medication is available as an inhaled (intranasal) formulation, but this isn’t proven to relieve cluster headaches.

Cluster Headache Care at Padda Institute

The physicians at Padda Institute are highly qualified to diagnose and treat headaches of all types, including cluster & chronic headaches. They will coordinate your treatment with your primary doctor and ensure you get overall cluster headache pain relief.

Your Padda Institute Care Team

The Team Approach

You might be evaluated and treated by a team of Padda Institute neurologists in addition to your treating physician.

Individualised Care

Choosing the right treatment for you is a team effort between you and the doctors at Padda Institute. There is no cure for cluster headaches, but doctors will help you manage them.

Care Coordination

Coordinating your medical care will be done by your doctor and your primary doctor.

The Team Approach

You might be evaluated and treated by a team of Padda Institute neurologists in addition to your treating physician.

Individualised Care

Choosing the right treatment for you is a team effort between you and the doctors at Padda Institute. There is no cure for cluster headaches, but doctors will help you manage them.

Care Coordination

Coordinating your medical care will be done by your doctor and your primary doctor.

Experts at Padda Institute

Research at the Padda Institute has made significant advances in the understanding of different types of headaches. At Painmd, cluster headache specialists treat many people each year to live the life they deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions ​

Cluster headaches can be extremely painful, but they are not fatal. However, they are detrimental to a person’s quality of life and can occasionally result in anxiety and/or depressive disorders, particularly if the headaches cannot be controlled by medicine or other treatments.

Less than 1% of people have cluster headaches. Men experience them at much higher rates than women. Cluster headache attacks appear to be most common among middle-aged persons.

It’s important for those who experience cluster headaches to take their prescribed drugs at the times and doses advised by their doctor. Such people should recognize and stay away from all possible triggers.

Cluster headaches are categorized by the International Headache Society (IHS) as episodic (recurring in cycles) or chronic headaches (long-term without significant breaks).

Certain factors that can trigger cluster headaches are:

  • Stress, relaxation
  • hot or cold environments
  • glare,
  • hay fever
  • sexual activity
  • Sometimes eating specific foods can trigger them
  • Cluster headaches worsened by tobacco or alcohol containing products

A cluster headache episode is a sudden occurrence. The discomfort normally gets worse within a few minutes, but episodes can last upto 3 hours. Contrary to migraine, cluster headaches do not come with auras (visual or other sensory disturbances), hence most patients have little to no notice before one occurs. Cluster headaches differ from other types of headaches in that they frequently start when a person is asleep.

Less than 1% of people have cluster headaches. Men experience them at much higher rates than women. Although some people experience their first episodes in the teens or early fifties, most people experience their first cluster headaches around their mid-twenties. The majority of persons appear to experience attacks most frequently in middle age.

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