Health Tip: Managing Cluster Headaches

Stick to your normal sleep pattern

(HealthDayNews) -- A cluster headache is a relatively rare type of headache that starts suddenly and is characterized by excruciating pain in or around one eye, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

More common in men, a cluster headache usually lasts about 45 minutes and occurs at the same time each day for several weeks, until the "cluster period" ends. Cluster periods usually last four to eight weeks and may occur every few months. The cause of this type of headache is unknown.

Your description of your headaches will help your doctor make a diagnosis. The time and pattern of attacks are important, so keep a pain diary. During a cluster period, it is important to keep to your usual routine, stay calm, and stick to your sleep pattern.

Once a cluster period has started, a change in sleep pattern, particularly taking an afternoon nap, seems to bring on the headaches even more. Drinking alcohol also can spur headaches during cluster periods.

Several treatments are available. Your doctor probably will prescribe one medicine to be taken regularly during a cluster period to reduce the number of headaches and a second medicine to relieve the pain when a cluster headache occurs.

Oral medicines work too slowly to give relief. For this reason, your doctor may prescribe a medicine that is taken by inhaler, as an injection or as a rectal suppository. Other possible treatments include rapidly breathing pure oxygen through a mask or using a local anesthetic in the nose.

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