Cluster Headache vs Migraine

Pain in the Head: Cluster or Migraine?

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Cluster Headache and Migraine may both cause excruciating pain in the head and are sometimes interchanged. However, there is a big difference in the cause, duration, severity and type of pain, and prevalence of each. Cluster Headache, unlike Migraine is rare and from the name itself occurs in groups or clusters. It causes extremely painful and debilitating pain usually a stabbing sensation; hence they are also termed as suicide headache as the pain may cause the patient to commit suicide as he/she can no longer handle it. It is most common in men and may occur alongside runny rose and red watery eyes. It occurs only within a short duration and can last up to 45 minutes only. Cluster Headache appears during seasonal changes and is commonly triggered by Nitroglycerin, alcohol, hydrocarbons, and napping.

Migraine on the other hand is caused by the enlargement of the temporal artery causing strain and stretching on the nerve that coils around it. This causes the nerve to release chemicals that lead to further enlargement of the artery, inflammation and pain. Migraine is more frequent than Cluster Headache as it can be easily triggered by bright lights, loud noises, smoke, skipping of meals, changes in sleeping patterns, and other forms of stress. It is common among women and is manifested by a deep throbbing, and pulsating pain occurring for 4-24 hours. However, severity of pain may range from moderate to slightly severe only and does not occur with runny nose, and red watery eyes.

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