Causes and treatment of cluster headaches

A quarter of Dutch people suffer from a headache at least once a week. This headache can last as little as ten minutes, but there are also cases where the headache lasts for about three hours straight. Most people take medication when they suffer from headaches, especially severe headaches. Headaches can be divided into different categories. An example of this is the cluster headache.

Headache and functioning

Headaches may occur to a mild degree, but if the headache turns into a severe headache, it will hinder functioning. With normal headaches, they will usually largely or completely disappear after using painkillers, but if there is a severe headache such as cluster headache, regular painkillers may not provide a solution.

Cluster headache; what is it?

Cluster headaches are a neurological condition that manifests as extreme pain on one side of the head. Cluster headaches are also more often abbreviated as CH. People who suffer from cluster headaches often have an extreme headache in the area of one of the eyes and/or the temples. The pain of cluster headaches has different degrees, ranging from difficult pain to unmanageable pain. The pain that people with cluster headaches experience can be compared to the pain you get when you eat an ice cream too quickly, for example. People who, in addition to cluster headaches, also often suffer from migraines can confirm that cluster headaches are much worse. It is therefore not surprising that cluster headaches are classified as one of the most painful syndromes a person can suffer from. Other people experience the pain as the feeling of a burning ice pick being repeatedly stabbed above or into the eye. The attacks of cluster headaches last an average of one hour, but can vary from fifteen minutes to three hours. In addition, the attacks can occur several times a day over a period of sometimes several weeks.

Is treatment possible?

The aim of treating cluster headaches is of course to combat the symptoms in the first instance, because the causes of cluster headaches are not yet known in order to provide adequate treatment. A combination of treatment methods is possible in most cases, but they do not work successfully for everyone. The treatment methods can be roughly divided into two groups, namely:

  • Prophylactic treatment; These treatments are aimed at limiting or preventing cluster periods.
  • Direct attack control; The medication is intended to stop the attacks of cluster headaches as quickly as possible.

Not everyone receives the same treatment for cluster headaches, and this depends on the type of pain and of course the advice of the GP or specialist.

The reactions in cluster headache

Cluster headaches are a relatively unknown phenomenon, which is why people with these headaches often encounter a wall of misunderstanding in their environment. There are many people who do not know how to deal with cluster headaches or someone who suffers from them. This is mainly because it is often impossible to tell that a person is having so many headaches. In addition, most people prefer not to flaunt this disease. The cluster patient himself is also often left with a lot of misunderstanding, because it cannot be said exactly where the headache comes from and why sometimes the medicines work and other times not. Cluster headache is sometimes also called suicidal headache, or a suicide headache, because of the above factors, the hopeless situation one finds oneself in and the often unbearable pain. Cluster headache is therefore a serious disability that has a major impact on a person’s life.