Men and Cluster Headaches
Have you been having strange headaches that seem to appear out of nowhere? They’re very painful but only hurt on one side of your head. By the time you reach for the medicine cabinet, the pain is already gone. Well, you might be experiencing cluster headaches.
This isn’t a migraine; a cluster headache doesn’t last as long as a migraine and it tends to come with shooting pain on just one side. Only 1 in a thousand people experience cluster headaches, but that will come as little comfort if your head feels like someone is drilling a hole through it.
Cluster headaches can be cyclical, and they affect men more than women. The ratio between the sexes is about 3 to 1. That doesn’t mean that women can’t have cluster headaches, too. It’s just that men experience them more often. There are also certain lifestyle habits that make men more prone to cluster headaches than women.
In a key study conducted in 2019 that looked at cluster headaches in both men and women, researchers found distinct differences in the way that cluster headaches manifest. For women, most of their symptoms were akin to symptoms found in migraine headaches – nasal congestion, long duration, and changes in sexual hormones. For men, the symptoms were more typical for cluster headaches. Men who suffered from cluster headaches also had a positive correlation with smoking and snoring.
Here are a few ways to recognize a cluster headache and some treatment options if you’re one of the men who experience them.
Triggers for Cluster Headaches
If you like to exercise outdoors in the mid day sun, then you’re at risk of cluster headaches. Extreme heat and exertion seem to increase your chances of having them. The same is true for hot baths and saunas. If you’ve noticed that you have a sharp pain on one side of your head after a mid day jog or after a hot shower, then you should make some changes to your routine.
Other triggers for cluster headaches are linked to your vices. Men who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use cocaine are more likely to experience cluster headaches. You should use these substances in moderation or avoid them all together, especially if you know that you’re prone to cluster headaches.
Other triggers for cluster headaches are bright lights, high altitudes, and processed foods that contain nitrates. So, keep this in mind if you’re taking a flight, eating at restaurants frequently or attending a live event with lots of bright lights on display.
How Do You Know if You’re Having Cluster Headaches?
Cluster headaches usually come in bunches. You’ll have a sharp pain on one side of your head or directly behind one eye. It will last for about 1 or 2 hours and then go away. Later, the pain will return again the exact same way. This can happen over a span of several days or multiple times in a single day.
Cluster headaches are sometimes confused with migraines, but the symptoms are a bit different. With cluster headaches, you’ll have very sharp pains in localized areas of your head. Migraines are spread across a wider area. Migraines tend to last for long periods of time, but cluster headaches are short lived.
People with migraines often like to lie down but lying down when you’re having a cluster headache tends to make the pain worse. Migraines usually come with an aura, which is an alteration of visual perceptions before the migraine. With cluster headaches, there’s little to no warning.
Here are a few more common symptoms.
- Stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Sudden, sharp pain that can make you dizzy
- Swelling around the eyes
- Restlessness and anxiety
How Can You Treat Cluster Headaches?
The most obvious ways to treat cluster headaches is to quit smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. You can also avoid exercising or doing strenuous activity during the peak heat of the day. These are some of the most common causes and you can minimize your risk for getting cluster headaches by adjusting your lifestyle.
Related: How I Quit Smoking in Just 4 Weeks
If you are experiencing a cluster headache attack, then try to get some fresh air. Open all your windows and take some deep breaths. For quick relief, you can also inhale oxygen through a mask at 7 to 10 liters per minute. This will cause your symptoms to subside in as little as 15 minutes.
There are some medications that treat cluster headaches. You can take Dihydroergotamine, Octreotide, or Lidocaine. Before you take any prescription medication, be sure to consult with your doctor for the best treatment option. Never take medication without your doctor’s consent and advice.
Some men confuse cluster headaches with migraines or just plain stress. However, stress isn’t related to cluster headaches and migraines affect people in a different way. Cluster headaches are rare, but they affect men more than women.
Researchers are unsure of exactly why more men experience cluster headaches, but there could be a link between alcohol and abnormal sleeping habits. So, be sure to get plenty of rest and avoid alcohol if you’re having a period of cluster headache attacks.
Take notes about your cluster headache periods. What were you doing before it happened? What kind of foods were you eating or the types of activities you were engaged in? This can help your doctor create a treatment program that works best for you.
If you are experiencing cluster headaches, make sure you get some fresh air and tell someone what’s happening. The pain might get so severe that you can’t help yourself. So, be sure to communicate with your support network of friends and family about what to do if you’re experiencing cluster headaches.
Lastly, if cluster headaches are making you anxious or depressed, seek professional counselling to find solutions for promoting better mental health and wellness.