- The extreme pain can be markedly diminished within 15 minutes by an under-the-skin injection of sumatriptan or by using a sumatriptan nasal spray.
- People who suffer from chronic cluster headaches and are under the age of 50 may find relief from breathing 100% oxygen from a tight-fitting face mask for about 10 minutes.
- Ergotamine is particularly effective for preventing attacks that occur at predictable times.
A Answers (5)
RealAge answeredPeople suffering the pain of cluster headaches may find relief through a variety of methods:
Cluster headaches are very severe and treatment is often difficult. Everyone during a cluster period needs preventive agents, often verapamil and some antiseizure drugs. For individual attacks, injectable sumatriptan is useful, although not pleasant. High flow oxygen can also be helpful.
These headaches are typically only managed by a physician who is very experienced in the treatment of cluster headaches.
While there is no real cure for cluster headaches, there are treatments that can decrease the severity of pain, shorten the duration, and even prevent them. Many patients respond extremely well and may even become 100% pain free. The key is correct diagnosis. Relatively rare, they affect less than 1% of the population and are frequently mistaken for migraines, resulting in misdiagnosis.
Treatments that have shown to be effective during the acute phase range from inhaling 100% oxygen for short periods, to drugs including sumatriptan (Imitrex) and local anesthetics, which are administered through injections and/or nasal sprays.
There are also drug treatments that show success in reducing the frequency and severity of attacks. These include, among others, short-term medications such as inflammation-suppressing drugs, and long-term medications such as calcium channel blockers and lithium.
For some patients who can’t tolerate drugs, there are some surgical options that target the nerve pathways thought to be responsible for pain. However, surgery can result in side effects such as muscle weakness or sensory loss.
Cluster headaches uniquely respond to treatment with nasal oxygen therapy in about 70% of patients. The headache resolves in 10-20 minutes. Those who do not get relief with oxygen can be treated with the medications used to treat acute migraine attack, such as triptans and DHE. Oral steroids can be used to alleviate the severity or to shorten the duration of attacks. In addition to that prophylactic medications can be prescribed by your doctor in order to prevent the following exacerbations.
Angela Lowery, DNP, Family Medicine, answeredThere is no cure for cluster headaches. The goal of treatment is to decrease the pain, shorten the period of the headache and prevent future attacks. Your doctor may prescribe Triptans and or other medications. Oxygen has been known to provide relief.