Cluster headache attacks are rare, excrutiatingly painful, and incurable. They come in cyclical patterns in the form of clusters of intense pain that typically wakes a person up while they’re sleeping. There are videos documenting the severe bouts of episodic pain that capture the intensity of the condition, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to three hours at a time.
The girl screams in agony as she cries through an oxygen mask and bangs one side of her head with her boyfriend’s help. It only affects two to three percent of the population, but it’s the most debilitating of all primary headaches and usually occurs every other day or even up to eight times per day during a bad cluster spell. Cluster headaches are always unilateral, which means they occur on one side of the head at a time, with the pain centered over one eye, one temple, or one side of the forehead. They’re seasonal for approximately 80 percent of people with episodic cluster headaches that can last four to 12 weeks around the same time every year, according to Mayo Clinic.
The remaining 20 percent have what’s called chronic cluster headache and cannot predict when a cluster headache attack will occur or how long it will last. It’s a frightening diagnosis and occur five to six times more often in men between the ages of 20 to 40 years old, than it does in women, unlike migraines which are experienced more by women, according to The Migraine Trust.
Triggers and Risks for Cluster Headache:
- One in 20 people diagnosed with cluster headaches have a family member with the condition
- Heavy smoking of tobacco products
- Alcohol brings on pain within an hour
- Petrol, paint fumes, perfume, bleach smells
- Exercise or becoming overheated