Cluster Headaches and You

What to do besides suffer?

Welcome, I hope this information is useful in some way!

What exactly is a cluster headache? Described as the worst pain known to human kind, known to be worse than child birth, it has specific triggers, time frames, and can only be passed on genetically. Anyone can get a migraine, there's about three million reported cases per year in the US, but only 0.1% of the world has cluster headaches. The information regarding clusters are very minute, due to how rare it is. It's classified as a Primary Headache, which means the pain is caused by itself; secondary or tertiary headaches are caused by other means such as stress, not eating, or smoking. There are different forms of clusters; Chronic and Episodic. Episodic sufferers get one week to one year worth of suffering, but then get up to one month (or more!) of remission. Chronic sufferers get them for more than a year, with less than 1 month of remission in between.

Cluster pain is severe to suicidal. It only attacks the right or left temple and eye generally. The left or right side of the face will swell, almost like your brain is mushing itself to one side. Like it's trying to force its way out through the temple, nostril and eye. Preventative and abortive medications exist, but consider them a crap-shoot because the pain can break through them. Tolerance for pain will certainly increase over time, but at what risk and at what cost?

You cannot move during a cluster headache. The amount of pain you are in debilitates anything you could ever dream of. Impossible to drive, can't sit still, can't walk, can't think, the only thing that exists is the amount of pain your head is going through and, by extension, your body. After a cluster is no better; severe nausea, unsteadiness, not being able to focus, exhaustion from any activity, and/or zero thoughts. Noise can make clusters much worse, so being isolated is almost the best idea. Even while isolated, movement can still happen. If you smashed your finger on a car door, you would move around and swear. No different with clusters, you move around when you the strength allows.

The warning signs for a cluster are something called Shadows or Pulses. It starts somewhat like a migraine. You have 10 to 15 minutes before your life is entirely ruined for the day. In that time frame, take an abortive or just suffer. Most clusters are from 30 minutes to 2 hours. No matter how long, the pain lingers, anxiety builds, and depression can set in. Even a somewhat mild (ha!) cluster will leave you breathless for the entire day.

Clusters are hard not only to deal with but to know when they happen. Some just suffer day to day. People like me do not. I had an entire month that was full of clusters. I've also had a month of freedom. Specific time frames for cluster sufferers are hard to pinpoint, but scientists claim between Spring and Fall. For myself, I suffer from the Summer solstice to the Winter solstice. However, I couldn't tell you on what and which days I could get one. It's random; it can happen at work, it can happen while sleeping, it can happen while driving, camping, or swimming.

Triggers for a cluster will always differ from person to person but generally: A fluorescent light source, smoking cigarettes (Marijuana is debatable), not eating, air pressure, fluid intake, diet, and alcohol could all play roles. Some doctors and scientists claim it's neurovascular, just like migraines, but I have a personal opinion that it's more neurological than cardiovascular. I am no scientist though, just a man trying to defeat clusters. When it comes to triggers, I don't go near most of them.

So, how exactly do you deal with these intense forms of pain? Excedrin Migraine Extra Strength + a carbonated beverage will save you pain. Get oxygen if you can, it's the best form to beat back clusters. Imitrex or Triptams, as well as Lithium, come a close second. Anything that restricts your breathing can be dangerous, as it can trigger a cluster. While not tested as thoroughly, magic mushrooms can be beneficial. But, if you do not have any single thing, Excedrin Migraine extra strength and the soda will work wonders. Caffeine seems to work and I do not know why.

I wish I could give more information, I truly do. It's so rare that all I can ask is that people who have personal cures to speak up. Say something to someone. Seeing as it passes on genetically, look into family history and learn who had it. Learn as much as you can from these... things. Because the more you learn about it, the more chances a cure can exist. And boy howdy, I want a cure.

Sources:
Myself

Cluster Busters

Headache, Cluster In-Depth Report

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Cluster Headaches and You