Treatment for cluster headaches involves:
- Medicines to treat the pain when it happens
- Medicines to prevent the headaches
TREATING CLUSTER HEADACHES WHEN THEY OCCUR
Your doctor may recommend the following treatments for when the headaches occurs:
- Triptans, such as sumatriptan (Imitrex)
- Anti-inflammatory (steroid) medicines such as prednisone -- starting with a high dose, then slowly decreasing it over 2 to 3 weeks
- Breathing in 100% (pure) oxygen
- Injections of dihydroergotamine (DHE), which can stop cluster attacks within 5 minutes (Warning: this drug can be dangerous if taken with sumatriptan)
You may need more than one of these treatments to control your headache. Your doctor may have you try several medicines before deciding which works best for you.
Pain medicines and narcotics do not usually relieve cluster headache pain, because they take too long to work.
PREVENTING CLUSTER HEADACHES
Avoid smoking, alcohol use, certain foods, and other things that trigger your headaches. A headache diary can help you identify your headache triggers. When you get a headache, write down the following:
- Day and time the pain began
- What you ate and drank over the past 24 hours
- How much you slept
- What you were doing and where you were right before the pain started
- How long the headache lasted and what made it stop
Review your diary with your doctor to identify triggers or a pattern to your headaches. This can help you and your doctor create a treatment plan. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them.
The headaches may go away on their own. Or you may need treatment to prevent them. The following medicines may also be used to treat or prevent headache symptoms:
- Allergy medicines
- Blood pressure medicines
- Seizure medicine
In rare cases, a device that delivers tiny electrical signals to a certain nerve near the brain may be placed. This device is called a neurostimulator. Your doctor can tell you if this treatment is right for you.