Q&A: Chronic Pain & Cluster Headaches


If you’re suffering from recurring headaches and haven’t found relief, you may have cluster headaches. This is a rare type of headache that affects men and women equally. Cluster headaches usually occur in clusters, with symptoms coming in intervals that last for weeks or months at a time before subsiding again. The good news? There are treatments available for dealing with this painful condition. Here’s what you need to know about cluster headaches:

What are Cluster headaches?

“Cluster headaches are a type of headache that comes in episodes and are often described as a sharp, burning pain around the eye and temple. They typically occur several times per day, each lasting 15 minutes to three hours. The headaches can be so severe that people will sometimes seek treatment in an emergency room or hospital.

“The condition is more common in men than women and generally starts in adulthood. It’s thought to be related to changes in serotonin levels in the brain as well as environmental factors such as allergies or alcohol consumption.”

What causes cluster headaches?

Cluster headaches are thought to be caused by a dysfunction in the trigeminal nerve.

The trigeminal nerve is responsible for facial pain and the muscles that control facial expression (smiling, frowning, squinting). If you have ever had a headache that felt like someone was drilling into your eye socket with an ice pick, then you know just how excruciating this can be.

Who gets cluster headaches and why?

  • Men are more likely than women to have cluster headaches.
  • People with a family history of cluster headaches are more likely to get them, as well.
  • Cluster headaches often occur in people who also have migraine or depression.

Is there a cure for cluster headaches?

No, there is no cure for cluster headaches. The good news is that treatment options are available and can help reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. Cluster headaches are a chronic condition, which means they don’t go away on their own. They also aren’t contagious or hereditary. Even so, it’s important to know what cluster headaches are and how they differ from other types of headaches so you can identify them quickly should you experience one yourself or notice someone else suffering from them.”

How can I tell if I have a cluster headache?

If you’ve been experiencing headaches that are severe and occur in a series or cluster, you may have cluster headaches.

These headaches are usually unilateral, meaning they only occur on one side of the head. They are also usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as redness or tearing of the eye on the same side as your headache, and an aversion to light (photophobia). In some cases these symptoms can be triggered by alcohol, smoking or even changes in barometric pressure.

There is no cure for cluster headaches, but there are treatments that can help pain when it occurs.

Cluster headaches are hard to treat. They can be debilitating and cause a great deal of pain, which is why it’s so important that you find the right treatment method for your symptoms.

If you have recently been diagnosed with cluster headaches, speak with your doctor about starting treatment as soon as possible. In some cases, prescription medication may be able to help reduce the frequency or intensity of your attacks. If medication doesn’t work for you or if it causes side effects that are too severe, surgery or hypnosis may be an option. You also might want to try acupuncture—some people report significant relief from this alternative form of treatment.


Cluster headaches are not common, but they can be severe. They can also be disabling and interfere with your ability to work or engage in normal activities. If you think you might have cluster headaches, see your doctor as soon as possible so that he or she can help determine the best course of treatment for you.