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What Is The Difference Between Cluster Headaches And Migraines

Why Do Some People Call Them Suicide Headaches

What is the difference between “sinus headaches” and migraine?

Some people call cluster headaches suicide headaches. This name came from people taking their lives when experiencing a cluster headache or anticipating one. Unfortunately, some people feel like they have no hope with cluster headaches. But healthcare providers can help you with these headaches.

Learn more about recognizing suicidal behavior or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255.

What Is A Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are rare when compared to other types of headaches. The pain they produce is severe and tends to recur in the same way each time. They occur in groups, or clusters, and each attack lasts about 1 to 3 hours on average. The frequency of occurrence may range from every other day to multiple times a day. Cluster periods are followed by remissions that may last months or years.

Males are affected by cluster headaches more than females and they typically start around age 30.

Treatment For Migraines Or Cluster Headaches

Because there is not a cure for migraines or cluster headaches, the goal of treatment is to prevent the attacks as well as decrease the severity of symptoms. Specific treatments will vary based on the type of headache.

Migraine treatments include:

Medications that relieve painPain relief medications should be taken when an attack comes on to reduce the pain associated with the migraine. Mild migraines may be handled with OTC aspirin or ibuprofen, while severe migraines may need prescription medication. Other medications that may be used to relieve pain include Triptans, Ergots, Anti-nausea medication, pain medication and glucocorticoids.

Medications that prevent future attacksPreventive medications are taken daily and can reduce the number or severity of migraines. Not all patients are candidates for prevention medication. Preventive medication is best for patients who are not finding symptoms relief on pain relief medications, who have four or more migraines a month, and have attacks that last longer than 12 hours. Common medications that are used to prevent migraine attacks include cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, pain relievers or Botox.

Your doctor will determine the most appropriate medication for your case, taking into consideration your symptom severity, overall health and other medical conditions.

Cluster headache treatment needs to be fast-acting. Treatments include:

  • Pure oxygen treatment

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Key Points About Cluster Headaches

  • Cluster headaches occur in groups, or clusters, and each attack lasts about 1 to 3 hours on average.
  • The frequency of occurrence may range from every other day to multiple times a day.
  • Cluster periods are followed by remissions that may last months or years.
  • Relative to other types of primary headaches, cluster headaches are rare.
  • The pain they produce is severe and they tend to recur in the same way each time
  • Identifying headache triggers may help prevent their occurrence.
  • A true cluster headache is not life threatening and does not cause permanent brain damage. But, they tend to be chronic, recurrent, and can interfere with your lifestyle or work.

Who Gets Cluster Headaches

Headaches Vs. Migraine: Differences Worth Knowing

Cluster headaches affect 1 out of every 1,000 people. That makes them less common than migraines, though some people get both types of headaches.

Symptoms of cluster headaches usually start showing up between the ages of 20 and 40. Researchers once thought these headaches affected men more often. They now believe they affect men and women equally.

Cluster headaches are also more common in people who smoke and frequently drink alcohol. Many people who get cluster headaches also have sleep apnea.

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What Are The Most Common Types Of Headaches

The most common type of headache is considered by the International Headache Society to be a tension headache . There are over 22 types of headaches that have been described. Many are common . However, this article will be limited to migraine, tension, cluster, sinus, and hormonal headaches as these are common types.

  • Tension headaches: A tension headache is characterized by mild to moderate chronic headache pain, often with a band-like tightness discomfort or pain on both sides of the head.
  • Cluster headaches: A cluster headache produces pain on only one side of the head . The pain is excruciating with stabbing pain in the head and eye. It has been described as feeling as if the eyes are being pushed out. Cluster headaches are not preceded by an aura, and usually do not have symptoms of nausea, vomiting or aversion to light and sound.
  • Sinus headaches: A sinus headache is a type of headache usually is caused by an infection of the facial sinuses and/or sinus congestion. A sinus headache is mild to moderate head pain, and has symptoms of throbbing head pain, and/or pain produced around the facial sinuses, eyes, cheeks, and forehead, usually occurring with an infection of a facial sinus and/or sinus congestion.
  • Hormonal headaches: Hormonal headaches are headaches that can resemble either migraines or tension headaches, but occur during hormonal changes in women during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and/or menopause.
  • Is A Cluster Headache A Kind Of Migraine Attack

    Cluster headache is its own condition and not the same as migraine. Cluster headache and migraine are both primary headache disorders. This means that the symptoms they cause are a result of the headache condition itself, rather than another underlying problem. Some of the symptoms of cluster headache and migraine overlap, which is why its easy to confuse the two.

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    Contrasting Symptoms Of Cluster Headaches And Migraines

    The surest way to know whether a headache is due to a migraine or is a cluster headache has to do with the symptoms that are the most different. Here are some examples:

    • The start of the headache: Migraines may start with aura or even earlier symptoms that lead up to the attack stage. Cluster headaches arise suddenly and go straight into the blinding pain.
    • Length of the attack: Severe migraine symptoms can last up to 72 hours. Cluster headaches go away just as quickly as they come and rarely last more than a few hours.
    • Frequency Migraines may be occasional or can occur as often as daily if you are dealing with chronic migraines. Cluster headaches occur in cluster periods that can last anywhere from a few weeks to a full year. However, you may also experience pain-free periods between clusters last anywhere from a few weeks to a year.
    • Risk factors Three times as many women get migraines as men. However, cluster headaches are more common for men than women.
    • Prevalence Migraines affect about 12% of people. In contrast, only about 1% of people get cluster headaches.

    Clearly, there are many differences between these two conditions. So could it be possible that they have a similar underlying cause? While the cause of both migraines and cluster headaches are a mystery to researchers, there is reason to believe that either could be connected to upper cervical misalignments. Lets examine how this could be the case.

    Cluster Headache Vs Tension Headache

    Primary Headache: Migraine vs Cluster headache

    Tension headaches account for nearly 90% of all headaches and are probably experiences by most people at some time during their lifetime. Tension headaches are frequently associated with fatigue, stress or hangovers. They generally respond to simple measures such as rest or over-the-counter pain medicine. A characteristic of tension headaches is that pain usually occurs on both sides of head and is in the form of a dull, steady ache.

    Cluster headaches are rare, extremely painful and debilitating headaches that occur in groups or clusters. They often appear during seasonal changes. They are also described as suicide headaches, a reference to the excruciating pain and resulting desperation that has sometimes culminated in actual suicide.

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    Migraine And Cluster Headache Are Often Confused

    The best way to figure out which type of head pain a patient experiences is… Listen. To. The. Patient. Anna Williams shares her story of living with migraine disease and cluster headaches and how it was challenging to get someone to understand she has two separate disorders.

    Cluster headaches are often lumped in with migraines, and migraines can sometimes be confused with cluster headaches. .

    Comparison Between Ch With And Without Comorbid Migraine

    Among 194 patients identified as having CH based on ICHD-3, 1 patient was excluded due to not meeting ICHD-3 criteria and another patient was excluded due to an uncertain history of migraine. We therefore finally analyzed 192 CH patients, comprising 26 with their first episode of CH, 134 with episodic CH, 10 with chronic CH, and 22 with probable CH. Their age was 38.1±10.8 years and 160 of them were male. The age at the onset of CH was 29.6±12.5 years and the CH duration was 8.4± 8.1 years. The score on the numeric rating scale for CH severity from the latest ictal period was 8.9±1.2. The frequency of CH was 2.2±1.8 per day during the latest ictal period, and the total number of CH bouts was 8.7±13.2.

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    Symptoms Of Migraines Vs Cluster Headaches

    Lets start with the similar symptoms so we can understand why it can be difficult to tell the difference between these two conditions. Migraines and cluster headaches have the following symptoms in common .

    • Severe headache Cluster headaches are always severe. Migraines often feature a severe headache. However, migraine headaches can be more moderate or mild in nature. Sometimes, a migraine may present with no headache at all.
    • Runny nose Sinus headaches are often confused for migraines or cluster headaches. This is because both can present with a runny nose. However, migraines will usually present with sinus problems on both sides. Sinus drainage with a cluster headache is one-sided, just on the side where the headache is occurring.
    • One-sided pain Almost all cluster headaches are one-sided. Many migraines are one-sided, but really a migraine headache only has to meet two of the following four criteria: Moderate to severe pain, one-sided pain, pain that grows worse with exertion, or throbbing or pulsing pain .

    So even when there are similar symptoms in the comparison of migraines vs cluster headaches, there are still some differences. Now, lets look at some ways that these two conditions are even more different.

    What Is A Migraine

    Headaches vs Migraines

    Since migraines dont arise due to any other illness or trauma, theyre considered primary headache disorders. Migraine attacks produce a broader range of symptoms than headaches, and they last anywhere from four hours to several days.

    Migraines progress through a series of stages. When theyre full-blown, they are often accompanied by nausea vomiting sensitivity to light, sound, and certain odors and muscle weakness.

    The exact causes of migraines are still being researched.

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    Differences And Similarities Between Treatments Of Migraine Vs Headache

    Treatment of migraines often focus on reversing the inflammatory changes of the blood vessels thought to be the source of the migraine pain.

    Triptans are a class of drugs effective at helping reduce inflammation and decrease the swelling of the inflamed vessel, which tends to lead to decreased head pain in a relatively short time. Many of these medications also can reduce the associated nausea, light-, and sound – sensitivity that occur with migraines. Examples of triptans include sumatriptan , eletriptan , zolmitriptan , and rizatriptan . These drugs are available as a pill, nasal spray, or injection.

    Botox. If you have chronic migraines , Botox® may help you to decrease the frequency and severity of your migraines. This treatment has not been shown to be of benefit in treating other types of frequent headache.Erenumab is a new class of drug called a calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonist approved in 2018 for the preventative treatment of migraine. It is a monthly injection used to prevent migraines.

    What Is The Difference Between Cluster Headaches And Migraine

    Almost everyone has suffered severe pain sometime in their life, whether it was pain from a broken bone, child birth or a painful, throbbing headache. You understand when someone says their pain was excruciating. Unfortunately, there are currently over 30 million people suffering from excruciatingly painful headaches, that occur over and over, due to migraine and cluster headaches. Both types of headaches incur debilitating pain, both are considered vascular headaches , and both tend to run in families. If you have a first degree relative with either type of headache you are much more likely to be diagnosed with that type of headache yourself. Cluster headaches often go undiagnosed for years as they are confused with migraine. So how do you know if you are suffering from frequent migraines or if you have cluster headaches?

    There are differences between the two. Migraine is fairly common and sufferers are most often female whereas cluster headache sufferers are rare and predominantly male. Migraine headaches are most common in people between the ages of 25 to 55 although children and teens also are diagnosed with it. The migraines often start in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. The onset of cluster headaches typically begins in the late 20s although there are exceptions. There are many similarities as well as differences, so lets look at a quick review of both types of severe headache and then compare the two.

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    How Do Cluster Headaches Differ From Migraines

    Cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias are distinct from migraine and require a different clinical approach. Differences are seen in attack location, frequency and duration, and the level of autonomic involvement. At the World Congress of Neurology 2019, Professor Shuu-Jiun Wang of National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, outlined possible causes, distinguishing features and treatment options.

    Cluster headache affects about 0.1% of the global population and has some characteristics which are markedly different from migraine. Notably, it tends to occur more in men than in women, and has a shorter attack duration and higher frequency.1,2

    It involves severe pain on one side of the head. Attacks are short lasting 15 minutes to 3 hours and can occur up to 8 times per day and can last for weeks or months.

    Different symptoms

    In the ICHD-3 criteria, cluster headache is classified among the trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias , which is a category of primary headache disorders. The TACs are characterized by unilateral headaches with prominent cranial parasympathetic autonomic features on the same side as the headache.

    Unlike migraine, cluster headache occurs more in men than in women

    Different frequency

    The main difference between the TACs is attack duration

    Risk of depression

    Other TACs

    There are a number of other TACs, and the principal difference between them is the duration of attacks when untreated:1

    What causes TACs?

    Cluster Headaches Are No Joking Matter

    Migraine Headaches : About Cluster Migraines

    Excruciating pain in, behind, or around one eye?

    Cluster headaches are some of the most painful, occurring in clustered periods around one side of your face and radiating out towards the rest of the face, neck, and back. The pattern of cluster headaches can last weeks or months and is typically followed by a remission period with lingering symptoms that can last for years. Here are some symptoms of cluster headaches that can help you spot the differences between what could be a migraine or moderate tension headache:

    • Excessive tearing
    • Flushed skin
    • Swelling the affected eye

    The biggest difference between migraines and cluster headaches is the restlessness, where a person experiencing a cluster headache is likely to pace back and forth or rock.

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    Causes Of Migraines Or Cluster Headaches

    The cause of migraine appears to be linked to hormones, genetics or environmental factors, while the cause of cluster headaches is not fully understood. Research has linked cluster headaches to a nerve in the face that causes intense pressure around one of the eyes.

    Triggers for migraines

    Cluster headaches typically recur in certain seasons, so they are often mistaken for seasonal allergies.

    How Migraines Are Different

    In many ways, a migraine should be thought of as more of a neurological disorder than a headache. A number of factors make migraines different than other types of headaches:

    • Causes:While migraines arent the only primary headache disorder, they do differentiate themselves from other types because they occur independently of other health conditions.
    • Associated symptoms:While some other types of headaches cause additional effects, migraine attacks are sometimes associated with nausea, light and sound sensitivity, and other symptoms.
    • Location of pain:Migraine headaches often occur on one side of the head, tending to move to the other side over the course of the attack. In contrast, sinus headaches focus on the forehead and face, tension headaches tend to wrap across the head and neck, and clusters are centered on or around the eye.
    • Diagnosis:As a primary headache disorderand unlike headaches due to tumors or traumamigraines cant be diagnosed using imaging or blood tests.

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    Causes And Triggers Of Migraine Versus Cluster Headaches

    Genetics play a significant role in migraine. If one or both of a persons parents have migraine, theres a 50 to 75 percent chance that they will, too, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

    Genetics are believed to less strongly influence the occurrence of cluster headaches but are suspected to be involved in about 10 percent of people with cluster headache, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders .

    The underlying cause of cluster headache is not known. The direct cause of pain is thought to be a result of blood vessels dilatating and creating pressure on the trigeminal nerve, says NORD.

    Alcohol may trigger both types of headaches, but migraine attacks may also be triggered by hormonal fluctuation and relaxation after stress, says Richard Lipton, MD, a professor and vice chairman of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of the Montefiore Headache Center, both in New York City.

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