Telling the Difference Between Cluster Headaches and Migraines

Cluster headaches are often not treated appropriately, mainly because they are confused with migraines. But besides the intense pain these two types of headaches cause, they hurt and are felt differently. Here are ways to tell the difference between cluster headaches and migraines:

  • Cluster headaches have more severe pain

While both types of headache are intensely painful and disabling, a cluster headache is characterized by a more severe pain than migraine. The pain often feels so bad that when it strikes, you are likely to get up and pace. If you’re seated you may need to rock back and forth until the pain fades.

  • The headaches may hurt in different parts

Cluster headaches often hurt on one side. Usually, the one-sided pain is over one eye, one side of the forehead or the temple. Conversely, the throbbing pain of a migraine may hurt one side, both sides of the head or just your forehead.

  • How the headaches start and stop

A cluster headache comes on quickly, often without warning, and is usually short. The pain lasts for about a quarter of an hour up to three hours. The headache also usually comes around the same time either during the day or night. There are up to eight headaches a day for a couple of weeks or months until the pain goes for a remission of several months or years.

A migraine, on the other hand, begins slowly but is long. The headache may last for hours or even a few days. Also, there are usually some warning signs up to a day before a migraine headache starts. After the headache, there are is usually a postdrome period characterized by fatigue or confusion.

  • The causes

Cluster headaches happen when something activates the nerve that senses feeling to the face. While doctors are not sure about what activates this nerve, changes to a person’s biological clock may be involved.

MigraineExperts are also not sure about what causes migraine headaches. A change in nerve signals across your brain may be the likely cause of the headache. And regarding triggers, cluster headaches don’t have as many triggers as migraines.

  • Prevalence and risk factors

Cluster headaches are rare. They affect less than 1 in 1,000 people making them the least common headache. Migraines are the most prevalent form of disabling headache requiring medical intervention. About 29.5 million Americans get migraine pain and symptoms.

  • The gender factor

Most of the patients neurologists in Bartlesville diagnose with cluster headaches are men. About three out of four people with these headaches are men. Conversely, 75 percent of people who get migraines are women. Some researchers think estrogen might be what makes women more susceptible to migraine triggers.

Cluster headaches and migraines cause intense pain and share some other symptoms. However, there are ways to tell these types of headaches apart so you may get the right kind of diagnosis and relief. Both kinds of headaches are treatable once they’re correctly diagnosed. Talk to a neurologist in Bartlesville if you have a disabling headache.