Cluster Headaches

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cluster headaches were nicknamed suicide headaches by an American neurologist who described the headaches as so severe patients had to be constantly watched for fear of suicide. Dr. Edward Hill discusses cluster headaches in todays 60 Second Housecall.

Dr. Hill:

Patients commonly describe cluster headaches as the worst pain they have ever experienced. Cluster headaches are typically one-sided and tend to occur in clusters, or groups, over a period of weeks or months.

Attacks typically last from 15 minutes to three or more hours. Onset is rapid and can wake people from sleep. There are no warning signs, but some people have preliminary sensations of pain in the general area of the attack.

Associated symptoms can include tearing, eye redness, runny nose, facial sweating and drooping eyelid. Patients also have a sense of restlessness.

While the cause of cluster headache is unknown, the intense pain is thought to relate to malfunction of descending pain control centers in the hypothalamus and brainstem regions.

Acute treatments for cluster headaches include inhaling a medication called ergotamine, intravenous injection of dihydroergotamine, breathing 100 percent oxygen or taking medications called tryptans.

Preventive treatments include avoiding alcohol, reducing stress and taking prescription drugs such as lithium, depakote, prednisone and verapamil.

For North Mississippi Medical Center, Im Dr. Edward Hill.