Cluster Headache versus Migraines
Many people have valid questions about cluster headaches and migraines, including how they are different and which type of headache they are suffering from. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation about what distinguishes these conditions. Some may wonder “are cluster headaches migraines?” while others are curious if they can have both cluster headaches and migraines.
Another common question is “are cluster headaches worse than migraines?” This article will aim to answer these questions by describing what these distinct types of headaches are and what the primary differences are between them.
All About Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches generally occur in cycles of weeks or months and are very painful. Individuals with these headaches cycle into and out of periods of attacks and remission.
Common symptoms include pain centered on one eye or on one side of the face, excessive tearing in one eye, forehead swelling, a drooping eyelid, and restlessness. These types of headaches are rare but typically affect more men than women and present symptoms before the age of 30.
All About Migraines
Migraine headaches are also very painful but feel distinctly different than cluster headaches. Migraines are typically marked by throbbing or pulsing sensations, as well as nausea and a sensitivity to sound and light. But like cluster headaches, the pain is often worse on one side of the head.
Some people may experience neck stiffness, increased thirst, constipation, or mood changes before a migraine hits. Hormonal changes, food additives, and stress may play a role in triggering migraines. Migraine headaches are far more common than cluster headaches and tend to affect more women than men.
Cluster Headache or a Migraine…or Both?
It is very rare for a person to experience both cluster headaches and migraine headaches during the same period of life. However, it is not impossible or unheard of. Some doctors have shared that patients who seek treatment for both conditions actually only have migraine headaches with cluster features. There are some preventative measures that may help prevent both conditions if they both exist, including calcium channel blockers and valproic acid.
Treatment for Cluster Headaches and Migraines
Although there is no cure for a cluster headache, treatments can help prevent attacks, decrease pain, shorten headache periods. Acute medications can deliver quick relief, including inhaling oxygen through a mask, triptan injections, and local anesthetics.
Meanwhile, migraines are treated with pain-relieving medications like aspirin and ibuprofen, triptans to block pain pathways, and ergotamine at the immediate onset of symptoms. Anti-nausea medications may also help treat the common symptoms of migraine headaches.
Preventative medications for these types of headaches can be very helpful in keeping the pain from occurring in the first place. Overall, it is important for chronic headaches sufferers to seek medical treatment to obtain an accurate diagnosis and treat the specific type of headache they are suffering from.
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