What to Know About the Difference Between Cluster Headaches and Migraine Attacks
The pain can be incapacitating, whether you’re suffering from a migraine or a cluster headache.
However, because the treatments for the two diseases are so dissimilar, it’s critical to determine which you have — or whether you have something else entirely — in order to have the best chance of relieving your pain.
It’s difficult to find headache relief without a proper diagnosis.
Here’s everything you need to know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for these two types of headaches.
Signs and Symptoms
Migraine attacks and cluster headaches may have some similarities.
They are both headaches, can be unilateral, and can affect the forehead.
Despite their similarities, the two can be distinguished in a variety of ways. Migraine attacks and cluster headaches have distinct symptoms and behaviors.
A migraine attack may cause nausea, sensitivity to light, and vomiting, whereas a cluster headache causes watery eyes and runny noses, according to her.
Some migraine sufferers can predict the onset because it is preceded by an aura, which typically takes the form of visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines, or temporary loss of vision.
Cluster headaches, on the other hand, strike unexpectedly, almost always cause symptoms on one side of the head, and are accompanied by a runny nose and tearing eyes on the same side of the head as the headache. As a result, cluster headaches are frequently confused with sinus headaches, despite the fact that their pain is distinct.
Could a Headache Caused by COVID-19 Be Mistaken for a Cluster Headache or Migraine Attack?
One of the most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19, the viral illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, is a headache.
In October 2020, the Journal of Headache Pain published a survey that looked at the characteristics of headaches caused by COVID-19. People reported pulsing, pressing, and even stabbing pains in their headaches.
According to the survey, men were more likely than women to experience COVID-19-related headaches. The headaches were reported to be bilateral (on both sides of the head), to last for more than 72 hours, and to be accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms as well as loss of taste and smell.
Do Migraine Attacks Last Longer or Happen More Frequently Than Cluster Headaches?
A migraine attack can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. That is longer than the average cluster headache, which lasts between 15 minutes and three hours.
Most migraine sufferers have one or two migraine attacks per month, but some suffer from them much more frequently. Chronic migraine affects about 1% of the population and is defined as having at least 15 migraine days per month.
Cluster headaches occur in bouts, also known as “cluster periods.” These periods can last weeks or months, and they are separated by remissions that can last months or years.
The frequency of headaches during a cluster period ranges from one every other day to as many as eight per day.
Migraine More Common Than Cluster Headache
Because migraine is much more common, it is likely that more people have heard of it than cluster headaches. More than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines. Migraine is the world’s third most common illness.
Cluster headaches, on the other hand, are less common, affecting between 200,000 and one million Americans.
Gender is a Risk Factor in Migraine and Cluster Headaches
Women have more migraines than men, and men have more cluster headaches than women.
Women account for roughly three out of every four migraine sufferers.
Most pain conditions, such as back pain, neck pain, migraines, and headaches, are more common in women than in men.
Cluster headache is one of the few exceptions in which men suffer more than women. The male-to-female ratio is roughly four to one.
Causes and Triggers of Migraine Versus Cluster Headaches
Migraine is heavily influenced by genetics. If one or both of a person’s parents suffer from migraines, they are 50 to 75 percent likely to suffer from them as well.
Genetics are thought to have a less strong influence on the occurrence of cluster headaches but are suspected to be involved in about 10% of cluster headache cases.
The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown. The direct cause of pain is thought to be dilated blood vessels that put pressure on the trigeminal nerve.
Both types of headaches can be triggered by alcohol, but migraine attacks can also be triggered by hormonal fluctuations and relaxation after stress.