Symptoms and diagnosis
Cluster headache is pain that occurs along one side of the head. It’s frequently described as pain that occurs around, behind, or above the eye and along the temple in cyclic patterns or clusters. The pain of a cluster headache is very severe. Many patients describe a “drilling” type of sensation.
Cluster headache is always unilateral, or one-sided. However, some people may experience some variability of the side on which their headache occurs. Most people with cluster headaches describe their pain as occurring around or behind the eye. Pain may radiate along the forehead, into the jaw or along the gum line and into the teeth, or across the cheek of the affected side. Infrequently, pain may extend into the ear, neck, or shoulder.
In addition to head pain, many people with cluster headaches have symptoms and signs that may include:
Cluster headache has a characteristic type of pain and pattern of attacks. A diagnosis depends on your description of the attacks, including your pain, the location and severity of your headaches, and associated symptoms.
How often your headaches occur and how long they last also are important factors.
Your doctor will likely try to pinpoint the type and cause of your headache using certain approaches.
A neurological examination may help your doctor detect physical signs of a cluster headache. Our Neurologist will use a series of procedures to assess your brain function, including testing your senses, reflexes and nerves.
If you have unusual or complicated headaches or an abnormal neurological examination, our neurologist might recommend other tests to rule out other serious causes of head pain, such as a tumor or aneurysm. Common brain imaging tests include:
Cluster headaches and migraines are both severe forms of headache, but they are different and need different treatment.
Before a migraine, a person will often experience an “aura,” or visual disturbances, including flashing lights or zigzag lines. A migraine can last for up to 72 hours, and it commonly involves nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.
A cluster headache starts and ends suddenly and it lasts a shorter time. It often features congestion, watery eyes, and a runny nose. It normally affects only one side of the head, and the eye that is watering is on the same side.
A person with a migraine prefers to lie down during an attack, but people with a cluster headaches say that lying down worsens the pain.