Cluster Headache

What Triggers Off A Cluster Headache

Just like no one cause can be pinpointed as the cause of many diseases, similarly there is not one single factor that can lead to a cluster headache. A multitude of factors may be responsible for the same.


Any vasodilator, that is, a substance leading to swelling of the blood vessels can lead to an acute attack of cluster headache. Nitroglycerin and histamine have been labeled as the possible culprits. So is alcohol which is a well-known vasodilator. Even minimal amounts of it can be harmful as it leads to a rapid change in the blood vessels. Smoking is another factor that can contribute to cluster headaches. But during the headache-free period, alcohol and smoking do not appear to be a factor. It is only during one of the attacks that these substances lead to aggravation of the symptoms.

Hormonal changes in women either during periods or menopause do not seem to be the cause of cluster headaches. Also, it is seen that the sufferer gets affected during the spring or autumn. But then this headache is not seasonal and not even associated with business stress. In fact, these seasons vary from patient to patient. Somebody may get affected in the winters while another may suffer during the summers.

Some studies point out that glare or even ingestion of specific types of food can lead to a cluster headache, just as in the case of migraine.

Even exposure to hydrocarbons as found in petroleum solvents and petrol has been recognized as a trigger. If the patient has low tolerance to heat, then heat may also act as an aggravating factor. Surprisingly, even innocent things like napping might trigger the headache in certain susceptible people.

All this clearly shows that though there are specific triggers, in the form of vasodilators, that cause cluster headaches, the triggers for aggravating the problem are highly individualized owing to your vulnerability and susceptibility to certain things.