What are the Most Common Cluster Headache Symptoms?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2019
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Cluster headaches are extremely challenging to endure and unlike the occasional headache that strikes most people, cluster headache sufferers may have numerous episodes lasting for several hours each day, for weeks to months before they experience a break or remission. Cluster headache symptoms are also distinctive from other types of headaches and more standard migraines. These symptoms could be suggestive of other disorders, so people are advised to see a doctor if they haven’t been diagnosed or don’t already have medical help in dealing with this condition. It’s important that other dangerous conditions like an aneurysm be ruled out if a person starts to experience its symptoms.

The most pronounced of the cluster headache symptoms is extreme pain often centered over one eye. Much of the time the pain is felt on one half of the face, and not the other. The pain in the eye or near it is described as hot, burning, and sharp. People often have corresponding tearing that occurs in the eyes, or eyes may feel itchy and appear red and irritated.

On the same side of the face that the pain is occurring, other cluster headache symptoms could present. The nostril and nasal passages of that side of the nose may be congested or irritated too, while the other side of the nose remains clear. The whole face may be pale, and people may feel pain in other areas like the forehead, neck, and face.


Lying down in a quiet place usually best helps the typical migraine sufferer. One of the cluster headache symptoms, restlessness, is in direct opposition to this. People may be better soothed if they’re able to move around. Pain may worsen if people sit still and they may have a hard time trying to relax while the headache is present. There are some similarities with migraines, and some people with cluster headaches feel nauseated from the pain, have auras, or are photosensitive.

There can be variance in how long cluster headache symptoms last. Some people get a headache that resolves before an hour is up and other people will continue to suffer for several hours. It’s also difficult to predict how many times a day this could occur or for how long a person will have headaches daily before experiencing remission.

Unfortunately, there is not a single reliable treatment for cluster headache symptoms. Some people take pain relievers that help, or use of triptans that also treat migraines works for others. Other suggested treatments include using lithium, calcium channel blockers, or injected nerve blocks. In rare instances, surgery is suggested to address the issue, though it’s usually only considered for those with severe impairment from these headaches.



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Post 2

@purplespark- I understand completely what your sister is going through because I also have cluster headaches. I had been treated for migraines for many years but the pain became different. It was hurting in my face and my eyes and became unbearable.

People who have never experienced the symptoms of cluster headaches could not possibly know the pain involved. Fortunately, after much trial and error, my doctor has found a combination that works for me. I still have one from time to time but the frequency has definitely decreased.

Post 1

My sister suffers from cluster headaches. She started off with just severe headaches and her doctor just gave her migraine headache treatment. None of the medication was working for her.

She then started having severe pain above one of her eyes so she went to the ophthalmologist. He was the one that suggested that she might be having cluster headaches. He referred her to a neurologist who confirmed the cluster headache diagnosis. He put her on three different medications but she was still in a lot of pain.

She has since had to drop down to part-time at her job and they allow her to do some of her work at home.

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