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Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are a rare type of severe headache.

The main symptom of a cluster headache is attacks of severe pain in 1 side of your head, often felt around your eye.

The main treatments for cluster headaches are injections or nasal sprays that you use soon after a headache starts.

The exact cause of cluster headaches is unclear. They can sometimes be triggered by alcohol or strong smells like perfume, paint or petrol.

You can help prevent cluster headaches by avoiding things that trigger them. Doctors can also prescribe medicine to help prevent attacks.

Read more on the NHS website.

The main symptom of a cluster headache is attacks of severe pain in 1 side of your head, often felt around your eye.

Symptoms of a cluster headache

Cluster headaches begin quickly and without warning. The pain is very severe and is often described as a sharp, burning or piercing sensation on 1 side of the head.

It's often felt around the eye, temple and sometimes face. It tends to occur on the same side for each attack.

People often feel restless and agitated during an attack because the pain is so intense, and they may react by rocking, pacing or banging their head against the wall.

At least 1 of the following associated symptoms is usually present:

The attacks generally last between 15 minutes and 3 hours, and typically occur between 1 and 8 times a day.

Read more on the NHS website.

The main treatments for cluster headaches are injections or nasal sprays that you use soon after a headache starts.

Medical treatments

Cluster headaches are not life threatening, but they can cause severe pain and significantly affect your quality of life.

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, are not effective for cluster headaches because they're too slow to take effect.

Instead, you'll need to have 1 or more specialist treatments.

Three main treatments are available to relieve pain when taken soon after a cluster headache starts.

These are:

  • sumatriptan injections – which you can give yourself up to twice a day
  • sumatriptan or zolmitriptan nasal spray – which can be used if you do not want to have injections
  • oxygen therapy – where you breathe pure oxygen through a face mask

These treatments usually relieve the pain of a cluster headache within 15 to 30 minutes.

Read more on the NHS website.

You can help prevent cluster headaches by avoiding things that trigger them. Doctors can also prescribe medicine to help prevent attacks.

Read more on the NHS website.

The exact cause of cluster headaches is unclear. They can sometimes be triggered by alcohol or strong smells like perfume, paint or petrol.

Read more on the NHS website.