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Signs and Symptoms of Cluster Headache
A cluster headache strikes quickly, usually without warning. Within minutes, excruciating pain develops. Cluster headache can be frightening to you and to your family and friends. The debilitating attacks may seem unbearable. But the pain usually ends as suddenly as it begins, with rapidly decreasing intensity. After attacks, most people are completely free from pain but exhausted.
- Stuffy or runny nasal passage in the nostril on the affected side of your face
- Flushing on the affected side of your face
- Sweaty, pale skin (pallor)
- May involve one side of the face from neck to temples
- Pain quickly gets worse, peaking within 5 to 10 minutes
- Peak pain may last one-half to 2 hours
- Swelling under or around the eyes (usually one eye, on the same side as the head pain)
Your doctor will also give you a physical exam. Tests will probably not be needed to diagnose cluster headaches, but your doctor may order tests to rule out other illnesses.
Temporary relief during a cluster period may be only a matter of hours or may last as long as a day before the next attack.
You can get 2 types of cluster headache:
- Episodic: This type is more common. You may have 2 or 3 headaches a day for about 2 months and not experience another headache for a year. The pattern then will repeat itself.
- Chronic: The chronic type behaves similarly but, unfortunately, you get no period of untreated sustained relief.