Knoxville Cluster Headache Treatment
Cluster headache is said to be the worst pain a human being can suffer, and are appropriately nicknamed “suicide” headaches. People who suffer from these types of headaches describe it as being worse than natural childbirth, broken bones, or severe burns.
Cluster headaches get their name because the pain attacks occur in “clusters”. Sufferers may have repeated headaches for anywhere between a week and a year, and then long pain-free periods. They are most common in adolescence and middle age, and unlike migraine headache, are much more common in men.
Scientists and headache experts do not know what causes cluster headache. There may be a genetic component, as cluster headaches tend to run in families. It may be due to an abnormality in the brain itself, but this has not been definitively proven. Cluster headaches have also been known as “vascular” headaches, because dilation (enlargement) of small blood vessels in the scalp and head are thought to be the immediate cause of the pain.
What are the symptoms of a cluster headache?
Cluster headaches will usually wake you up from sleep, commonly 2-3 hours after you go to bed, but may also occur during regular daylight hours. The headache pain tends to occur at the same time each day.
The pain occurs on one side of the head, and may occur behind, around, or in one eye. Cluster headache pain rapidly gets worse over about 10 – 15 minutes and may last up to 2 hours.
Other symptoms (on the same side of the head as the pain) include:
- Throbbing pain
- Tearing of the eye
- Redness of the eye
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Swelling under or around the eye
What are my Knoxville treatment options?
Currently, the main form of treatment for cluster headaches are medications which act on either the brain itself (topirimate, amitriptyline, valproic acid, lithium) or on the blood vessels (verapamil, propranolol). Your neurologist or headache specialist will help guide you to choose the medication or medications that are right for you.
The placement of nerve stimulators around the main sensory nerve of the face (the trigeminal nerve) is currently being studied in Europe and is showing promise for pain relief. Dr. Hall may be one of the surgeons involved in the clinical trials in the US, which are still going through the approval process. Contact us to check on the status of the trial if you are interested.
Lastly, although controversial, arterial surgery has been shown to greatly reduce or eliminate headache pain in cluster headache. The Headache Clinic in South Africa has been offering this treatment to their patients for years, and have over 1000 patients who have been successfully treated of their cluster headaches (and are now free from medicine). Dr. Hall has begun offering this outpatient procedure to his patients with excellent results. You can see a video testimonial of a patient with cluster headaches on our homepage.
If you or a friend/family member suffers from cluster headaches, contact Dr. Hall at 865.973.9500 or use our contact form and request an appointment in Knoxville. For out of town patients, feel free to request an online consult via Skype.