What Is a Cluster Headache?
Cluster headache is a type of pain that occurs in brief, severe attacks that affect only one side of the head. Cluster headaches often occur repeatedly throughout the day for weeks or months at a time, and then stop for several weeks or months. As with migraine headaches, the pain can be extremely intense or even unbearable.
Symptoms of Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches are characterized by a burning, stabbing, steady pain that often occurs in and around one eye. The pain may quickly intensify, peaking within 10 minutes and lasting 30 minutes to three hours.
Cluster headaches most commonly strike two to three hours after falling asleep, and tend to occur at about the same time every night.
Attacks may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
Causes of Cluster Headaches
The exact cause of cluster headache is unknown. However, the condition may be related to abnormalities in blood vessels and nerves that affect parts of the head involved in cluster headache attacks.
Men, adults age 20 and older, and people with a family history of cluster headaches appear to be at an increased risk for the condition. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and being under stress can also raise your risk for a cluster headache attack.
When left untreated, cluster headaches can occur repeatedly for years and interfere with your daily functioning. Although the following standard treatments won't cure cluster headaches, they can help ease your symptoms:
Natural Remedies for Cluster Headache Relief
If you experience cluster headache attacks, talk to your doctor about using the following natural remedies and alternative therapies:
People with cluster headaches may have low levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Although scientists have yet to confirm whether taking melatonin supplements can benefit people with cluster headaches, a small study published in 2001 found that melatonin helped alleviate attacks.
When taken regularly, capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) may help prevent the occurrence of cluster headache attacks. Available in nasal spray form, capsaicin is thought to reduce levels of substance P (a nervous system chemical involved in pain transmission).
3) Mind-Body Stress Relief
Stress is a trigger for cluster headache attacks. Although practices such as yoga and meditation haven't been specifically studied for their effects on cluster headache occurrence, they may help stave off attacks by keeping your stress in check.
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Leone M, Lucini V, D'Amico D, Moschiano F, Maltempo C, Fraschini F, Bussone G. "Twenty-four-hour melatonin and cortisol plasma levels in relation to timing of cluster headache." Cephalalgia. 1995 15(3):224-9.
Peres MF, Rozen TD. "Melatonin in the preventive treatment of chronic cluster headache." Cephalalgia. 2001 21(10):993-5.