What Are Cluster Headaches?

We have all endured a bad headache while at work, but imagine having the most severe type possible and carting around an oxygen tank in hopes of making the pain somewhat manageable.

The Doctors’ staff member Robert suffers from cluster headaches that leave him barely able to get through the day. He has been getting the headaches for the last 8 years and has 2 or 3 of them each night, which makes getting a restful night’s sleep very difficult. Strangely, Robert’s cluster headaches are seasonal, occurring usually in November and lasting until January or February.

Robert and neurologist Dr. David Kudrow join The Doctors panel to discuss the extremely rare headache, which only affects about 0.1 percent of the general population.

Watch: Sex and Headaches

“The reason why it’s called a cluster headache is because it occurs in clusters. Patients will have them, like Robert does, for several weeks or several months at a time and then they will disappear and then they are gone for 6 months, a year, 2 years. But when they come on, that cluster period can last a few weeks, a month. They get headaches every day, typically 2 or 3 times a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s an excruciating headache, describes as the most severe head pain that we are aware of,” Dr. Kudrow says, explaining that the pain usually lasts from 30 to 90 minutes.

After seeing numerous doctors, Robert has determined his best treatment is using oxygen periodically to help lessen the pain, along with occasioanlly sleeping in upright position.

So what can you do if you suffer from cluster headaches as well?

Watch: Help for Headaches

According to The Mayo Clinic, there is unfortunately no cure. Like Robert, inhaling 100 percent oxygen through a mask at a minimum rate of at least 12 liters a minute can usually help with the pain within 15 minutes.

Other possible ways to treat cluster headaches through medications and alternative medicines can be found, here. As always, consult with your physician before beginning any new treatment.

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