Migraine or a Cluster Headache?

By | May 28, 2017
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Some people might tend to confuse Migraine with cluster headaches as both of them are equally painful. How does one know whether its migraine or a cluster headache? Well, both the conditions seem the same but they have different symptoms and they surely differ in the type of treatments required to cure them. There are a number of ways to know the exact reason why your head is aching and how to treat the headache you’re suffering from. Let’s take a brief look into it.

Distinguishing Migraine and Cluster Headache

It is a scientifically proven fact that women are at a higher chances to suffer from migraines as compared to men. However, in case of cluster headaches, men might experience the cluster headaches more than women. Migraine and cluster headaches can be easily distinguished. You might experience the typical migraine symptoms like nausea, light sensitivity, migraine auras and vomiting during migraine. But, cluster headache is quite different than migraine in terms of symptoms. Cluster headache occurs most commonly on only single side of the patient’s head. You are likely to experience symptoms like having watery eyes and runny noses while having cluster headaches.
Apart from this, migraine has been known to be associated with hormone levels in our body. But in case of cluster headaches, no one knows what is the real cause.

Talking about the pain, both the conditions cause you to experience a severe and excruciating headache. But you cannot decide whether you are having a migraine or a cluster headache just by looking at the headache. You need to look closely at the symptoms to decide this. The causes and cures for both the conditions differ prominently and therefore, these should not be confused at all. Confusing them will lead you into misleading yourself and treating yourself with wrong medications which can be potentially harmful for you.  In order to diagnose your pain properly and to get a best chance at easing the headache you’re suffering from, you must have an accurate knowledge of the signs and symptoms of both conditions.

In case the diagnosis is not correct, it can become quite difficult for you to find the right cure for your headache.

Migraine or cluster headacheSigns and Symptoms

First of all, one must know the fact that migraine and cluster headaches have different behaviors. Migraine can even be predicted because of its distinct and well defined initial signs and symptoms. People who frequently experience migraine are known to predict when they’re going to suffer from migraine due to these symptoms. Therefore, the onset of migraine can be predicted beforehand unlike cluster headaches. Migraines are usually preceded by migraine auras, various visual disturbances and the patient might even see bright flashing lights and zigzag lines. The symptoms can even worsen to an extent of patient suffering from temporary loss of vision, which explains the severity of migraine.

However, as compared to migraines, the cluster headaches do not come with any warnings or signs. They are abrupt and sudden. Therefore, it’s fairly hard to predict the onset of cluster headaches. Moreover, cluster headaches are mostly on one side of the head. The patient is known to experience with watery nose and a tearing eye on that same side of the head where they are experiencing a headache. Due to this, people often even confuse cluster headaches with sinus headaches. An easy way to identify that you are suffering from a Cluster headache and not anything else, is that you might feel like your eye has been poked with a sharp sword. The pain in one eye and one side of head clearly indicates this condition.

Speculating both the kinds of headaches deeply, we can see that migraine headaches are likely to last from hours to even days. Migraines are long lasting. Whereas, cluster headaches do not last so long. They come and go really quickly. One can conclude that Cluster headaches are for shorter time, but they might keep appearing regularly or frequently. The duration of headache is small, but you might experience the pain again and again once the headache has clustered on a side of your head.

Age Group

Differences between migraine and cluster headaches are also rooted in the gender which experiences them more. Females are more susceptible to get migraines as compared to men, whereas men experience cluster headaches more often than women. But, this does not mean that women can’t suffer from cluster headaches or men can’t get migraines. It’s just a trend. And therefore, they do suffer from these conditions as well.

In general, migraine is a more widely spread and common issue. They are more frequent than cluster headaches. More than 37 million Americans are known to suffer from migraine which is definitely a huge number.  Cluster headaches are comparatively rare and affect roughly 1 million Americans only according to the national records.

Causes of Migraines and Cluster Headaches

Hormones play a prominent and key role in case of migraine headache pain. There is a diverse range of causes behind migraine. Migraine has been studied in detail by the scientists all around the world. However, being rare, the causes of cluster headaches have not been well studied.

There are some triggers including Alcohol which can cause both types of headaches. However, migraines might be linked with hormonal fluctuation and stress. Migraine can be cured by reducing exposure to light and sitting in dark room. But, cluster headaches make the patients feel disastrous and they cant sit down in peace.


Both types of headaches have different treatments. These medications give you relief and provide you rescue from the headache. Many are efficient and used to keep you away from headache once it starts, thus stopping it from getting intense. Migraine treatment includes a wide range of drugs called triptans and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are taken in form of pills. To cure cluster headaches, treatments like injectable triptans and high-flow oxygen are used to abate the pain.

Fast treatment is usually given for cluster headaches, as the pain is very severe. Cluster headaches are treated with injectables or nasal sprays because they work faster than pills. Many doctors give the the fastest treatment for a cluster headache in the form of making the patient wear a high-flow oxygen mask.

People suffering from migraines usually take the medications regularly to prevent the pain. Beta blockers like propranolol or timolol, various anti-seizure drugs and even antidepressants are taken by migraine sufferers. However, for cluster headaches, the medications which prevent the headaches include verapamil which is a calcium channel blocker or some steroids.

Learn A Natural Way To Prevent Migraines

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