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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Cluster headache

*

* Not a rare disease

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Overview

Cluster headaches are a form of headache notable for their extreme pain and their pattern of occurring in "clusters", usually at the same time(s) of the day for several weeks. The headaches are accompanied by autonomic symptoms, and some people experience restlessness and agitation.

A cluster headache begins with severe pain strictly on one side of the head, often behind or around one eye. In some people, it may be preceded by a migraine-like "aura." The pain usually peaks over the next 5 to 10 minutes, and then continues at that intensity for up to three hours before going away. Typical attacks may strike up to eight times a day and are relatively short-lived. On average, a cluster period lasts 6 to 12 weeks. Autonomic symptoms may include: conjunctival injection (bloodshot eyes), swelling under or around the eye, excessive tearing of the eyes, drooping of the eyelid, runny nose and/or nasal congestion, and forehead and facial sweating. These symptoms generally occur only during the pain attack and are on the same side as the headache pain.

Cluster headaches usually begin between the ages of 20 and 50, although they can start at any age. Males are more commonly affected than females. Treatment can be divided into acute therapy aimed at stopping symptoms once they have started and preventive therapy aimed at preventing recurrent attacks during the cluster period. [1] [2] [3]


Last updated: 7/14/2015

References

  1. Campellone JV. Cluster headache. MedlinePlus. 10/29/2013; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000786.htm. Accessed 7/14/2015.
  2. Headache: Hope Through Research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 02/23/2015; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm. Accessed 7/14/2015.
  3. May A. Cluster headache: Epidemiology, clinical features, and diagnosis. UpToDate. 05/22/2014; http://www.uptodate.com/contents/cluster-headache-epidemiology-clinical-features-and-diagnosis. Accessed 7/14/2015.
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Basic Information

  • MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
  • The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) collects and disseminates research information related to neurological disorders. Click on the link to view information on this topic.
  • The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) is a federation of more than 130 nonprofit voluntary health organizations serving people with rare disorders. Click on the link to view information on this topic.

In Depth Information

  • Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders. Each entry has a summary of related medical articles. It is meant for health care professionals and researchers. OMIM is maintained by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Cluster headache. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.