10 August 2012

Living With Cluster Headaches



Today is Day 6 of my latest cluster headache episode.  Judging from my patterns, I have about a week still left before I hit some relief.  If you're a cluster headache sufferer I don't have to tell you how bad it hurts, you understand far too well.  If you're not a sufferer, I won't even try to describe it because the pain is so bad I wouldn't know where to begin putting it into words.  It affects my life.  It affects my abilities to function during episodes.  I basically become a shell of myself during these attacks.  I personally have never met anyone who suffers from these, which isn't surprising since they are rare.  I did a bunch of research in the midst of my frustrated pain last night to see what other options I can try besides Advil and the grin and bear it method to manage these.  I came across an article that talked about Imitrex injections showing relief in cluster headache sufferers.  I wonder if anyone out there has tried this or has any insight on what has worked for them.  I decided that if I'm still suffering Monday, that I will make a doctor's appointment to re-evaluate our game plan.  For those who would like to know more about cluster headaches or suspect you may be suffering from them, I have provided some information below.



What Are Cluster Headaches?

Cluster headaches occur in patterns or clusters, hence the name.  The pain from cluster headaches are often described as sharp, penetrating, or burning.  Frequent attacks from cluster headache periods can last from weeks to months at a time.  Following these attacks are remission periods where sufferers can go months or even years in between attacks.  Cluster headaches are rare, and most affected are males.

Some Common Symptoms Of Cluster Headaches:

Excruciating pain which is usually generally located in or around the eye, but can also be felt radiating through the neck, face, head, and shoulders.  One sided pain is also a reported symptom.
Restlessness

Stuffy or runny nasal passages

Sweaty and/or pale skin on the face

A drooping eyelid

Redness and/or swelling in the eye of affected site


Characteristics Of A Typical Cluster Headache Period:

During a typical cluster headache period you will have headaches every day, usually several times a day for an extended period.  You may notice a majority of your headaches during these attacks occurring at night.  You may also notice the attacks occurring around the same time every 24 hour period.


What Causes Cluster Headaches?

Unfortunately the exact cause behind cluster headaches is unknown.  Researchers believe our hypothalamus plays some sort of role, and that since our biological clocks work with the hypothalamus, that this is a key part into figuring out the source.  Studies have linked a high activity in the hypothalamus to cluster headaches.  A family history of cluster headaches can put you at risk, as well as being at risk if you are a smoker.

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