7 Red Flags That Might Indicate You’re Suffering From Cluster Headaches

Illustration of woman suffering headache.Tiphero

You’ve heard of tension headaches where you can pop an ibuprofen and it’ll go away in a few. You’ve heard of migraines, AKA one of the most intense types of headaches. But have you ever heard of cluster headaches?

One of the least common type of headaches, cluster headaches are present in less than 1 in 1,000 people. Men are more susceptible to getting them than women, and most commonly occur in younger than 30. They can happen once or several times throughout the day and can last 15 minutes to up to three hours at a time (average is around 30-90 minutes at a time).

While doctors still aren’t quite sure what causes cluster headaches, they do know all the signs and symptoms that come along with them. Read on to find out if what you’re experiencing is a cluster headache.

If you answer yes to most of these questions, you might be suffering from cluster headaches.

  1. Does your headache last weeks or months?

    One of the biggest signs of a cluster headache is continuous pain that happens nearly every day for a week or even a month. The good news is that cluster headaches can sometimes go away completely for months or even years at a time, but they can also come back without warning.

  2. Do they happen around the same time?

    Woman with a headache.TipHero

    Cluster headaches are actually sometimes referred to as “alarm clock headaches” since they tend to happen around the same time each day, such as in the morning or right before bed. They can also be seasonal, and tend to happen around the same season for some, like spring or summer. Sometimes they’re even mistaken for allergies because of this reason.

  3. Do they affect one area of your head?

    With cluster headaches, the pain is more often than not one-sided, as in it throbs in one single area—most commonly around the eyes, but it can spread to your forehead, temple, nose, cheek, or upper gum area as well. Sometimes the cluster headache can switch sides, but that’s rare.

  4. Do they reach their force quickly?

    Cluster headaches can go from zero to 10 very quickly—usually within just five or 10 minutes, a cluster headache can be full blown.

  5. Are they accompanied by allergy-esque symptoms?

    Illustration of man sneezing into a napkin.TipHero

    You know how migraine headaches can be accompanied by nausea or sensitivity to light? Not cluster headaches. Since cluster headaches usually occur around the eyes, other symptoms you might get include red, water eyes or a stuffy nose. Again, sometimes they’re mistaken for allergies.

  6. Do they get better after implementing healthy lifestyle changes?

    Things like limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, avoiding exercise in hot weather and keeping up with a regular sleep pattern can all help in finding relief from cluster headaches.

  7. Do they not go away after taking over-the-counter meds?

    Typical pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin unfortunately won’t help you get any relief from cluster headaches, but there are some prescription medications that could work. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out which one is right for you.

Have you ever gotten a cluster headache before? How did you find relief?