Cluster Headache

What Causes Cluster Headaches

A type of vascular headache, cluster headache suggests clustering of headaches in the head. It behaves peculiarly in the sense, that it may occur for a period of few weeks or months and then may disappear completely, sometimes, even for years altogether. Considered to be quite rare, the reasons behind cluster headaches are still unclear.

Just as a vascular headache, it is thought to be caused by the swelling of blood vessels in the head with chemically active proteins found in nerve endings around blood vessels of the trigeminal nerve. It is also believed that there is some abnormality in the autonomic nervous system that leads to this disorder. A disturbance in the neurotransmitter serotonin is also being held responsible for the disease

Cluster headache starts suddenly without giving any warning except a slight discomfort or a mild burning sensation in one side of the head. This warning may last for a period of 30 - 45 minutes but the actual headache may last for a few hours usually occurring at around the same period almost every day. Generally, the sufferers complain of it during the night or early morning hours. The patients may even be awakened by it. It is because of this quality that these are called ‘alarm clock headaches’. Other names attributed to cluster headaches are histamine headache, red migraine and Hortony's headache.

The pain in cluster headaches is described as intense, severe and of a piercing kind. It may either be throbbing or constant. In fact, cluster pains are so intense that the scalp becomes tender, the arteries can be seen pulsating and the patient can not sit still.

With some patients, these headaches may occur seasonally. But, with others, it may be a regular feature of the calendar.