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Cluster headaches are often described as Suicidal Headaches due to their severity.
Excruciating attacks of pain usually on one side of the head and often felt behind one eye.
Cluster headaches are more painful than migraines, can start abruptly and last varying lengths of time. They are called cluster headaches due to their frequency which can be several times a day and can last for weeks. Periods of being free from pain can occur which can be months or even years before the attack return.
There are two types of cluster headache,
Episodic- the clusters are separated by headache free periods of one month or more.
Chronic- the clusters are separated by headache free period of less than one month or not at all.
The cause is not fully understood, but it is thought that an area in the brain, the hypothalamus, produces a lot more activity and in so doing releases various chemicals that possibly cause the blood vessels in the brain to dilate. No one knows why the hypothalamus acts in this way but it may be triggered by certain things:
Alcohol taken when the headache is occurring
Extreme changes in temperature ( after exercising in hot weather)
Or taking nitroglycerin (used to enlarge blood vessels often with angina patients)
Treatment includes the use of a drug called sumatriptan or oxygen therapy. More often than not, they are used together