General Health Tips & News

Cluster Headaches: Are people with cluster headaches more likely to have other illnesses?

By A.S. (staff writer) , published on December 31, 2022

Medicine Telehealth Health


According to a study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, people who suffer from cluster headaches are more than three times more likely to have other medical conditions such as heart disease, mental disorders, and other neurologic diseases.

Cluster headaches are episodes of extreme pain on one side of the head, usually around the eye. Cluster headaches are one of the most excruciating types of headaches. They occur in cyclical patterns or cluster periods. A cluster headache typically wakes you up in the middle of the night with tremendous pain in or around one of your eyes on one side of your head.

Cluster periods, which last from weeks to months, are frequently followed by relapse periods in which the headaches stop. During remission, there are no headaches for months or even years.

A cluster headache comes on suddenly and without warning, though you may have migraine-like nausea and aura first. The following are common signs and symptoms of a headache:

  • The excruciating pain that usually occurs in, behind, or around one eye but may spread to other parts of your face, head, and neck.

  • One-sided discomfort

  • Restlessness

  • Excessive tearing

  • Redness in the affected side of the eye

  • On the affected side, a stuffy or runny nose

  • Sweating on the affected side's forehead or face

A cluster phase might span anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The beginning date and duration of each cluster period may be consistent from one period to the next. Cluster periods, for example, can occur annually, such as every spring or every fall.

The majority of people suffer from episodic cluster headaches. The migraines in episodic cluster headaches endure from one week to a year, followed by a pain-free remission phase of three months or longer until another cluster headache begins.




Are people with cluster headaches more likely to have other illnesses?

Headaches have a hugely detrimental impact on people's quality of life all over the world, both monetarily and socially. According to the findings, those with cluster headaches not only had a higher chance of other illnesses, but those with at least one extra illness missed four times as many days of work owing to sickness and incapacity as those with only cluster headaches. They are also more likely to be absent from work for an extended period of time.




Cluster Headaches Triggers

Cluster headaches, unlike migraines and tension headaches, are not commonly related to triggers such as foods, hormonal changes, or stress.

Excessive alcohol use, cigarette smoking, strong odors, stress, and a lack of sleep are all factors that might cause cluster headaches. Avoiding all of those variables and adopting lifestyle changes can be beneficial.




Treatment of Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are not life-threatening, but they can cause severe pain and significantly affect your quality of life.

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, diclofenac, or naproxen, are not effective for cluster headaches because they're too slow to take effect.

Instead, you'll need to have one or more specialist treatments. Avoiding cluster headache triggers is the best option. 

3 main treatments are available to relieve pain when taken soon after a cluster headache starts.

These are:

  • sumatriptan injections – which you can give yourself up to twice a day

  • sumatriptan  or zolmitriptan nasal spray – which can be used if you do not want to have injections

  • oxygen therapy – where you breathe pure oxygen through a face mask

These treatments usually relieve the pain of a cluster headache within 15 to 30 minutes.


Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation

Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (TVNS) is a fairly new treatment that uses low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate a nerve in the neck. 

The aim is to relieve pain and reduce the number of cluster headaches.




Anna Guildford, P. (2022, December 20). People with cluster headaches are more likely to have other illnesses, a study finds. Retrieved from Medical News Today:

Cluster headaches. (2020, May 1). Retrieved from NHS:

Neurology, A. A. (2022, December 14). Are people with cluster headaches more likely to have other illnesses? Retrieved from MedLink Neurology:



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