What a Cluster……Headache!

About 8 years ago, I had my first experience with cluster headaches. It was Saturday, and my cousin and I were enjoying an afternoon out having drinks and appetizers. It was a delightful way to spend a lazy Saturday. (This was before I had kids.) Everything was going great until I started to get a sharp pain above my eye and below in my sinuses. It intensified quickly and I ended our afternoon abruptly, retreating to my car and raced home. By the time I parked in front of our duplex, I was in excrutiating pain.

After several attacks and trips to the ER, I was diagnosed with cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are one of the most painful headaches and occur in clusters. Meaning, once you start a cluster cycle, you can have multiple episodes that can last from weeks to months. They usually happen in the middle of the night and you wake up because of the pain.

The symptoms are: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cluster-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20352080

  • Excruciating pain that is generally situated in, behind or around one eye, but may radiate to other areas of your face, head and neck
  • One-sided pain
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Redness of your eye on the affected side
  • Stuffy or runny nose on the affected side
  • Forehead or facial sweating on the affected side
  • Pale skin (pallor) or flushing on your face
  • Swelling around your eye on the affected side
  • Drooping eyelid on the affected side
  • People will pace or rock back and forth during the painful part of the episode. This can leave them exhausted after an attack

I can speak from personal experience. The pain tarts above my eye and near my sinuses by my nose. If I take my imitrex nasal spray 20mg within a minute of the onset of symptoms, I can decrease the severity and length of the pain. If I don’t get my medicine in my system in time, my attack can last for hours. I can only describe the pain as feeling like someone shot a gun through my eye. Luckily, mine have been ocurring for 1 week every two years. That’s not bad. But I never know when it can strike. There aren’t an triggers so I always carry my medicine.

Any sharp pain should never be taken casually. See your doctor to make sure you know the cause. I had tests and scans done to make sure there wasn’t something serious causing my pain. It’s your body, keep it healthy with regular doctor visits. Some things are preventable, others are not. But knowledge is always a great tool to have and carry with you. I wish you a healthy weekend!

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