Cluster headaches is a painful condition suffered by many all over the world. Read on to know more about what brings it about…
Cluster headache is the most severe form of a headache, causing intermittent pain for about 12 days straight. It’s much more intense than a migraine attack. The period during which the pain is perceived is known as the cluster period. In extreme cases, cluster headaches can occur as many as 3 times a day, and last for 3 months. It is also known as ‘suicide attack’, because sufferers say that the pain feels like losing their life, and the very anticipation of another attack scares the hell out of them.
What Triggers This Condition?
This is the rarest type of headache. It affects 1 in 1,000 people, and is more prominent in people aged below 30 years. They are more frequent in males than in females. The unusual pain is associated with stimulation of the hypothalamus, which leads to the activation of the trigeminal-autonomic reflex pathway in the brainstem.
Cluster headaches are felt more often during the spring and autumn season. The hypothalamus is sensitive to seasonal variation, subsequently triggering an attack. The symptoms of cluster headache are often mistaken with allergies and infections due to climatic variation. Sometimes, moving towards high altitudes also gives rise to the painful condition.
The most obvious reason behind cluster headache triggers are environmental pollutants. Tobacco products containing nicotine are primarily responsible for such types of headaches. Exposure to allergens, nitroglycerin, chemicals products like gasoline and paints, etc., aggravate the pain. Passive smoking can also trigger a sharp pain. Exposure to bright light triggers can also entail sharp headaches.
If you have already suffered from a cluster headache, drinking even a single glass can trigger the pain once again. Alcoholic beverages are terribly harmful if you have a history of headahces or migraines. The pain can be felt even before finishing the drink. Over-consumption of beverages containing caffeine may also act as a trigger.
Too much stress and anxiety is also responsible for an attack. Pressure at work, personal problems, depression, or frustration causes terrible mental trauma. Cluster headaches are observed more in people leading a life full of tension. Work that involve continuous exposure to a computer screen can also trigger such pain.
Foods That Trigger Cluster Headaches
People who have already suffered from cluster headache must be careful about the ingredients in the food that they consume.
- Tyramine is a substance present in a few varieties of cheese, like mozzarella, Swiss, Stilton, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, processed cheese, muenster, and feta, and is responsible for inducing severe cluster headaches. People who are sensitive to tyramine should never consume such substances, as they cause rapid breakdown of protein. On the other hand, Monterey Jack cheese is recommended, due to its low tyramine content.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavoring chemical that can cause cluster headaches. Packed food, meat tenderizer, and soy sauce contain MSG, sometimes referred to as hydrolyzed protein or hydrolyzed fat.
- Food additives or preservatives contain nitrites and nitrates, which cause dilation of blood vessels, triggering severe cluster headaches. The symptoms can be quite intensive if you regularly consume foods like sausage, bacon, cured or processed meat, pepperoni, hot dogs, and deli meats.
Treatments include oxygen therapy or a surgery of the nerves responsible for triggering the headaches. Injection of sumatriptan and octreotide is also carried out to control the pain. Doctors also administer drugs like dihydroergotamine and local anesthetics like lidocaine.