The U.S. National Library of Medicine gives this definition: “A cluster headache is one-sided head pain that may involve tearing of the eyes and a stuffy nose.” Many people associate cluster headaches with allergies or sinus infection, though this may not necessarily be the case. These headaches tend to recur on a regular basis for as little as a week or for as long as a year. It is not clearly understood what causes cluster headaches, though many researchers speculate that it could be related to a sudden release of histamines. Most normal headache triggers can potentially launch an attack of cluster headaches.
Symptoms. Unlike most headaches, cluster headaches are generally single-sided. They may be accompanied by a runny nose, a red eye in the affected side, tearing, redness in the face and/or swelling near the eye. The eyelid on the affected side may droop slightly, and the pupil may close down considerably during the attack. These headaches are characterized by a stabbing pain that does not pulse, and they most often strike at night during deep sleep. Cluster headaches are of relatively short duration during each episode, but recur several times or more before disappearing entirely.
Treatment. While there is no known cure for cluster headaches, treatment may help manage the associated pain to keep it at tolerable levels that don’t interfere with everyday life. Your doctor may prescribe drug therapies to attempt to prevent attacks or to relieve the symptoms during an attack. Lifestyle changes that include healthy diet and exercise, as well as avoiding potential headache triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, certain preservatives, smoking and overexertion, may help in preventing cluster headache attacks. Always make sure to consume at least the recommended amount of water every day, and consult your doctor if the pain gets worse during treatment or if you feel that treatment is needed to manage the pain. With proper management, this chronic condition can be made much more bearable.