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Cluster Headache, Ambulatory Care

A cluster headache

is a very painful headache that starts quickly, peaks within 15 minutes, and stops suddenly. The headache usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes but can last up to 3 hours. A cluster period usually lasts for 2 to 12 weeks but can last longer than a year. Weeks or months may pass before a new cluster period begins. The cause is not known. Cluster headaches may be triggered by alcohol, smoking, stress, or bright light.

Common symptoms include the following:

Cluster headaches follow patterns and often occur at the same time of the day or year. You may have cluster headaches once every other day, or up to 8 each day. You may have any of the following:

  • Severe pain on one side of your head that stabs or burns
  • Swollen or watery eye, or droopy eyelid
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Red or sweaty face
  • Restlessness
  • Sensitive to noise or light
  • Exhaustion after the headache stops

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • More tired or sleepy than usual
  • Changes in your vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A seizure

Treatment for a cluster headache

may include medicine to decrease pain or prevent a cluster headache.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information if you need help quitting.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can trigger more headaches during a cluster period.
  • Follow a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Changes in sleep patterns can trigger a cluster headache.
  • Manage stress. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing.
  • Keep a headache diary. Write down when your cluster headaches start and stop. Include your symptoms and what you were doing when a headache began. Record what you ate or drank for 24 hours before the headache started. Describe the pain and where it hurts. Keep track of what you did to treat your headache and whether it worked.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Bring your headache diary with you when you see your healthcare provider. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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