Cluster headaches can be excruciating, often surpassing migraines on the pain scale. Many people describe the pain as a stabbing sensation, like a hot poker stabbing them through the eye.
Because the pain sensation and location is similar to that of a migraine, cluster headaches can often be misdiagnosed. But these headaches have very distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other painful headaches.
What are Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches typically affect only about 0.5 percent of the population. The pain of a cluster headache is usually located on one side of the head.
Men are four times more likely to suffer from cluster headaches than women, and the age of onset for these headaches is between 20 and 40 years old. Cluster headaches are aptly named because they tend to occur in clusters with headaches usually lasting between 15 and 30 minutes but can last up to several hours. Unlike migraines which typically have a prodrome, cluster headaches begin without any warning, and they commonly awaken the sufferer from sleep.
There is usually a pattern to the clusters, with headaches occurring once every other day or as much as eight times in one day. The average is two headaches per day for four to six weeks. After an episode of cluster headaches, the attacks typically disappear for some time, usually for about six to 12 months.
If you have experienced the pain from a cluster attack, you may be asking how do I get rid of cluster headaches? Thankfully there are treatments available.
How to Get Rid of a Cluster Headache Fast
If you’re suffering from a cluster headache, you want the fastest way to get rid of the pain. One of the quickest and safest treatments for cluster headaches is oxygen. Patients inhale oxygen at a rate of about seven to 12 liters per minute. It typically takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the treatment to work, but usually only delays the headache instead of getting rid of it completely.
How to Get Rid of a Cluster Headache
There are other treatments for this type of headache. While oxygen works best, medications like sumatriptan (Imitrex) injected just under the skin (subcutaneous) also helps. Sumatriptan or Zolmitriptan (Zomig) can be inhaled via a nasal spray and helps provide relief. Large doses of prednisone can also be beneficial in treating the pain.
If you or someone you know suffers from these debilitating headaches, contact the National Headache Institute to schedule an appointment at one of our three locations. Our doctors will work with you to create a customized treatment plan to help prevent these painful headaches that can bring your life to a grinding halt until they subside. Don’t wait, call us today.