About This Condition
Cluster headaches are very painful one-sided headaches that tend to occur in clusters of several headaches in a short period of time, after which there may be no headaches for weeks or months. Cluster headaches that continue for more than one year without remission, or with remissions lasting less than 14 days, are considered to be chronic and are very difficult to treat.
Cluster headaches involve pain in the eye or upper face, tearing, runny nose with nasal congestion, and facial sweating.1
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Many people with cluster headaches are smokers.2, 3, 4, 5, 6 While this does not necessarily mean quitting smoking will reduce cluster headache attacks, smoking should be avoided for many reasons.
Oxygen therapy has been found to be useful in treating cluster headaches. A double-blind trial compared breathing 100% oxygen with breathing air (nitrogen and oxygen) through a mask for 15 minutes or less during six headache episodes per person. The 100% oxygen significantly reduced the pain of acute cluster attacks in all subjects.7 A controlled trial found that during acute episodes of cluster headaches, breathing 100% oxygen through a mask for 15 minutes significantly decreased pain in most of the people with episodic cluster headache and in over half of those with chronic cluster headache.8 However, one-fourth of the study participants experienced cluster attacks soon after the treatment was stopped. While oxygen inhalation therapy is now considered a standard treatment,9 treatments may need to be repeated, and they have not been shown to help prevent recurrences.
In controlled studies,10, 11 a single treatment of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which the patient is placed in a chamber with highly concentrated oxygen, has been found to help decrease pain and prevent recurrence of cluster episodes in some patients for several days. Two studies have investigated the use of multiple treatments of hyperbaric oxygen in chronic cluster headache patients. In one small, preliminary trial,12 ten 70-minute treatments over two weeks brought relief in most of the participants; headaches did not recur for 1 to 31 days after the end of treatment in those who responded. In another preliminary trial, chronic cluster headache patients received 15 hyperbaric oxygen treatment sessions (every other day for 30 minutes each); results showed a gradual decrease in episodes in some patients, which lasted for up to two weeks after treatment ended.13
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.