The primary headache syndromes include migraines, tension-type headaches, and trigeminal autonomic cephalgias. While the first two are terms commonly used (sometimes misused) in everyday discussions, trigeminal autonomic cephalgias (TACs) are one-sided headaches accompanied by autonomic features such as lacrimation, small pupil, drooping or swelling of an eyelid, flushing, runny, or stuffy nose. This class of headaches includes subtypes like the cluster headache.
Cluster headaches are more common in men and usually start between the age of 20-40. The term “cluster” is used because headache attacks tend to cluster around a certain period of time. During the cluster periods, headaches can occur every other day or even multiple times per day for weeks or months, and then dissipate.
A “cluster attack” is the term used for the excruciating pain that comes quickly, and can last from minutes to hours. It is usually localized around one eye or temple, although it can radiate to other areas, and is associated with autonomic symptoms and/or a sense of restlessness. It is one of the most painful conditions known to mankind. Indeed, this headache-type was once referred to as “suicide headache”.
Though much more research is needed, we have made some strides in the treatment of cluster attacks, and studies are still underway for development of a wider array of treatment tools.