Cluster Headaches: Definition
Cluster headache is a type of severe, recurring pain that is located on one side of the head. It received its name from the clustering, or pattern, of frequent headaches that usually occur.
There are two main types of cluster headaches:
- Episodic cluster headaches—These occur one or more times daily for multiple weeks. The headaches then go away and come back months or years later.
- Chronic cluster headaches—These occur almost daily with headache-free periods lasting less than one month.
Either type of headache may switch to the other type.
The cause of cluster headaches is not known. It is thought that there is abnormal activation of the area of the brain that is responsible for regulating temperature, blood pressure, hormone release, and sleep. The pain is thought to be caused by a combination of widening of the blood vessels and inflammation of the nerves of the face.
Other possible causes include:
- Alcohol use
- Changes in barometric pressure
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Tobacco use
- Medications, such as nitroglycerin
Last reviewedNovember 2013by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.