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Cluster headache: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

Headache

Cluster headache is a type of headache that can also cause symptoms such as red eyes, swelling in the face, runny nose, drooping eyelid and decreased pupil size on the same side of the head where the pain appears.

The cause of cluster headache is not yet fully known, but it occurs due to changes in the nervous system, being more common in men over 30 years of age and who consume alcoholic beverages, for example.

If you suspect a cluster headache, it is recommended to consult a neurologist. Although there is no cure, treatment may involve inhaling oxygen at the time of attacks and the use of medications, such as verapamil or lithium, to prevent the pain from returning.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of cluster headache are:

  • Intense headache;
  • Red and/or watery eye;
  • Swelling in the face;
  • Runny or stuffy nose;
  • Falling of one of the eyelids;
  • Smaller pupil in one eye.

It is common for cluster headache pain to be located behind the eye or in the orbit region, on one side of the head, and to be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tearing of the eye or swelling of the face, which usually appear on the same side affected by the headache. pain. Find out more headache symptoms and types.

Symptoms can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours, and may return up to 8 times a day in some people, especially at night, for a period ranging from weeks to months. After this period, the person may be symptom-free for a long time.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of cluster headache is usually made by a neurologist based on the characteristics of the headache and associated symptoms such as intensity, frequency, location and duration.

If you want to make an appointment, you can find the neurologist closest to you using the tool below:

Sometimes, the doctor may also recommend imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans, to check whether there are any changes in the brain that could be causing the headache.

Possible causes

Cluster headache is caused by abnormalities in the functioning of the hypothalamus, parasympathetic nervous system and cerebral vessels. However, it is not known for sure what causes these changes and how they lead to the development of symptoms.

Furthermore, cluster headaches are more common in men over 30 years of age, who drink alcohol, have a history of head trauma or brain surgery and close family members with this type of headache.

How the treatment is carried out

Cluster headache treatment involves inhaling 100% oxygen or using medications, such as sumatriptan or zolmitriptan in the form of an injection or nasal spray, to control symptoms during the crisis.

Furthermore, medications such as verapamil, lithium, valproic acid and prednisolone may also be indicated to prevent the headache from returning in some cases, and should be used according to the doctor's instructions.

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