Cluster Headache - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms and signs of cluster headaches?

Cluster headache is always unilateral, or one-sided. However, some patients may experience some variability of the side on which their headache occurs. Most patients describe their pain as occurring around or behind the eye; pain is also described as radiating along the forehead, into the jaw or along the gum line and into the teeth, or across the cheek of the affected side. Infrequently, pain may extend into the ear, neck, or shoulder. Although watering (tearing) of the eye is frequently identified, some patients may only experience some redness of the conjunctiva. Eyelid drooping or swelling and a runny nose (rhinorrhea) are often associated with the pain of a cluster headache. Symptoms more commonly identified with migraine headaches, including sensitivity to light, sounds, or odors may occur. However, unlike migraine headache, movement does not worsen the pain of a cluster headache. In fact, many patients (more than 90% in one report) describe a sense of restlessness during their pain.

The headaches associated with cluster occur in groups. While the headaches themselves may be brief (as short as 15 minutes), the headaches can recur up to eight times in 24 hours. Headaches may last as long as 3 hours. Cluster cycles may last for only a single day, or may linger for many weeks.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: aml, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: April 11

I have had cluster headaches for about 7 years now. The pain behind the eye, temple and neck is a pain that I would not wish on anyone. My right eye waters (sometimes droops), along with my right nostril always dripping. I bought a body massager and use that on my temple and any very sore and sensitive area on my scalp. I have taken medications but nothing ever seemed to work. Some nights my cries are a little scary, if you didn"t know me. The pain will make you say some things that you normally would not think to say.

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Comment from: LKD, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 02

I am a long time sufferer of cluster headaches (CH) for about 40 years now, so I have tried all the drugs and treatments. The closest pain description of my CH is like having a brain freeze for 4 to 6 hours at a time, along with the droopy eye, stuffy nose and burning sensation when breathing, and nausea/or vomiting. The seasons and durations have changed throughout the years. My season usually starts February through May for about 6 to 8 weeks with a minimum of 30 plus attacks I couldn't stop. Nowadays, an attack will wake me up just before the deep sleep and re-occur 2 to 3 times a night or early morning if I can stop an attack. I hated the side effects of all the preventative medicines so I stopped using them, not to mention the cost, and by the time they start to work, my season was about over. Alcohol intensifies the pain, but does not cause the attacks, so I don't drink during my season.

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