What is a cluster headache?
Often misdiagnosed as a migraine
a cluster headache is an intensely painful experience with the pain occurring above, behind, or around the eye on one side of the face. Often described as a drilling sensation, cluster headaches are diagnosed when the pain is accompanied by certain symptoms including watery eyes, nasal stuffiness, drooping eyelids, sweating of one side of the face, or changes in the size of the pupil.
Symptoms appear fairly rapidly with the pain peaking at around five minutes. Generally, the headache lasts from 15 to 30 minutes, however the headaches can return as many as eight times per day. These frequent attacks are cause for the cluster name. These attacks can continue for weeks or months, typically with remission periods in between clusters. The headaches are caused by a sudden dilation of the blood vessels around the fifth cranial nerve. Often, cluster headaches can lead to depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. A person may also experience neck pain or stiffness after an attack.