This article outlines the common characteristics of a migraine headache vs cluster headache. Both are severe and both are debilitating. In an nutshell a migraine headache tends to last for hours to days without intermittent relief. A cluster headache tends to occur in short bursts and recurs a few times in the same day with temporary relief between bouts.
We all experience an occasional headache, most commonly called a tension headache. But excruciating, recurring headaches are more debilitating and the treatment of choice can vary for a migraine headache vs cluster headache. It’s important to note that while both migraine headaches and cluster headaches can be extremely painful, there is a difference between them. How can you tell what type of headache you’re experiencing?
Characteristics and symptoms associated with migraine headache vs cluster headache:
Typical Characteristics of Migraine Headaches:
- typically experience first attack before age 30
- four out of five migraine sufferers have a family member who suffers from migraines
- affect about 25 million people in the U.S. annually
- typically described as intense and throbbing headaches; often associated with nausea and sensitivity to light or noise
- they can last from as little as a few hours to as long as a few days
- many migraines are accompanied by migraine auras – or visual symptoms — just prior to an attack
- frequency can range range from several times a month to less than once a year; often become less frequent and severe with age.
Typical Characteristics of Cluster Headaches:
- affect about 1 million people in the U.S. annually
- often described as excruciating headaches, usually felt on one side of the head behind the eyes
- typically very short in duration; and the only type of headache that tends to occur at night
- tend to occur one to four times per day over a period of several days which is why they are called ‘cluster’ headaches
- frequency can range from once a month to years apart
- likely to be related to a dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, as a result there is a localized increase in pressure, similar to migraines
In conclusion, headaches that seem to fit the characteristics listed above are best evaluated by a specialist. A headache specialist can assess the symptoms and determine the best treatment plan for you.
Since 1981, First Health Associates has been providing exceptional health care to residents of Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Des Plaines. First Health is an integrative medicine practice that offers: Medical Care; Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine; Counseling and Behavioral Therapy; and Chiropractic Care.
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