A cluster headache is one of the most painful types of headaches and often appears unexpectedly and rather quickly. Those experiencing a cluster headache may wrongfully assume it is a migraine since some of the initial symptoms of both forms of headaches overlap, such as nausea or sensitivity to light; however, one of the primary differences of a cluster headache is that, for many people, there is a recurrence of symptoms over what is known as a cluster period, which typically lasts six to 12 weeks but can persist for as long as an entire year. During a cluster period, individuals can experience headaches as frequently as several times per day and for as long as three hours at a time.
The following symptoms are most commonly associated with cluster headaches and may help identify instances of this painful condition.
- Extreme pain, typically on one side of the face
- Drooping eyelids
- Swollen or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion or drainage
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Pacing or restlessness
- Pale or sweaty skin
- Redness of the eyes or face
If you feel you might be experiencing a cluster headache, or you have recently encountered persistent headache pain that will not subside, meet with your primary care physician immediately to identify or rule out any serious underlying medical conditions.