Cluster headaches are a unique type of headache that is often difficult to treat. Most people with cluster headaches will need to rely on a combination of treatment approaches to reduce the number of headaches they experience and decrease the severity of each attack.
It is important to try and prevent cluster headaches. Even if medications do not allow you to avoid cluster headaches entirely, you might experience headaches that are less severe or have more headache-free days. Some medications commonly used as preventative treatment are in the class of anti-seizure medications, such as lithium.
Depending on the specific medication you try, you may need regular blood work to make sure you reach the therapeutic level for the medication without the risk of toxicity. Generally, it may take several weeks of consistent treatment before you can determine if the medication is helpful. Short bursts of oral steroids are another option that might be used to prevent headaches.
Strategies For Relief
Since cluster headaches can strike with little to no warning, it is important to have treatments available at home or work. Many people with cluster headaches are prescribed oxygen therapy, which seems to reduce the severity and duration of the headache episode in some people. You use a face mask to breath in concentrated oxygen until the headache subsides.
Nasal sprays containing lidocaine are also commonly prescribed for cluster headaches. Since the medication is administered as a nasal spray, it usually has a quicker onset of effectiveness.
Triptans are a group of medications that are frequently used to prevent migraines, but can be effective during a cluster headache. Since cluster headaches can be severely painful, but for a relative short duration, it is important to have an injectable form of these medications.
In many cases, cluster headaches are nearly impossible to manage only with preventative medication and acute treatment. Minor procedures can be an option to help minimize pain and episodes. These approaches generally involve anesthetizing the nerve associated with cluster headache pain. One example is injection of a combination of steroids and lidocaine around the nerve. This reduces inflammation and stops the pain signal temporarily.
Some people also find temporary relief with cryoanalgesia, which involves freezing the nerve so it no longer sends pain signals. In most instances of cryoanalgesia, the nerve will regenerate and the pain eventually returns, so you'll have to work with your doctor to find out how often you should repeat the treatment.
Cluster headaches are among the most debilitating types of headaches. A combination of preventative and acute treatment is the best option for reducing the intensity and duration of headaches.Share
16 March 2018
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