The science of cluster headaches and how oxygen helps…

A rare type of headache that affects about 1 to 2 people in every 1,000

Migraine Trust
cluster headaches
  • Cluster headache is the only indication for oxygen therapy in the absence of hypoxia
  • During attacks patients are often restless, agitated, or both
  • Attacks typically last for 15 to 180 minutes untreated and have a frequency of 1 every other day for up to 8 attacks a day
  • Using inhaled high-flow oxygen is more likely to result in being pain-free after 15 minutes
  • Oxygen therapy can be administered at different flow rates
  • High flow oxygen is very effective in some patients in relieving symptoms of an acute cluster headache quickly and safely
  • Cluster headache bouts alternate with remission periods, when patients are pain free
  • In the majority of these patients, the headaches occur in clusters (bouts) with daily attacks for several weeks
  • Oxygen is one of the safest ways to treat cluster headache

3 ways to help cluster headaches

Cluster headaches happen in periods and are one of the most painful type of headache with very intense pain – usually in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep. Here are some types of treatment that can help relieve cluster headaches:

  1. Oxygen – Using oxygen can help reduce and give relief of symptoms. Using this method of oxygen is safe and there are many portable oxygen concentrators available to hire or buy on the market. If you need to go on holiday then you can speak to OxygenWorldwide to help arrange what oxygen you need whilst abroad.

2. Triptans – This is an injection format to teat the headaches and used mainly for the less aggressive migraine. To start with you can go to your GP or specialist to learn how to inject to begin with. This method acts faster than for example inhaling with a nasal spray but you may feel more comfortable with a spray than an injection.

3. Local anesthetics – This method is a better form if you prefer to have something through the nose and can be used over the injection method.

Cluster headaches range in severeness so you would need to discuss all your options with your specialist to find out and discuss what is right for you. Sufferers need some form of relief as it is very painful and disruptive to your day-to-day life.

1 in 1000 suffer from cluster headaches … is this you?

Cluster headache and oxygen therapy can help in the absence of hypoxia.

High flow oxygen is very effective in some patients in relieving symptoms of an acute cluster headaches quickly and safely. The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but cluster headache patterns suggest that abnormalities in the body’s biological clock are part of the cause. Unlike migraine and tension headache, cluster headache generally isn’t associated with triggers, such as foods, hormonal changes or stress. The way in which oxygen inhalation reduces headache pain is unknown.

Researchers have shown that there is an increased blood flow in the brain in both cluster and migraine headaches, although both headaches do not have the same degree of increased flow.

2009 study by Drs. Goadsby, Cohen, and Burns found that 78% of patients using inhaled high-flow oxygen were able to abort 71%-85% out of 150 attacks.

When travelling with cluster headaches and you use medical oxygen then the team at OxygenWorldwide can help organise and arrange all your medical oxygen needs.

7 surprising headache triggers

It’s easy to blame headaches on the usual suspects, such as workload and skipping your morning coffee. But did you know that there are other lesser known set-offs, which, if not identified, could cause frequent headaches? According to Dr Frederick Freitag, former director of headache medicine at Baylor University Medical Centre, us, if you know the root cause of your headache, you can often prevent it from occurring in the first place. As compiled from the Health magazine, and, here’s how to gun down hidden headache triggers.
A theory behind heat causing headache is that the body’s attempt to cool itself by sending more blood to the skin deprives the brain of oxygen. In the February 2012 issue of Head Wise, a publication of the National Headache Foundation, Dr Vincent T Martin mentioned that summer brings with it a unique set of triggers, such as sunlight, dehydration, increased physical activity, allergies and humidity.
Remedy: You can’t change the weather, but you can take steps to keep cool.  Stay in an air-conditioned environment on hot days and keep yourself well-hydrated when outdoors or exercising. If the AC isn’t an option, avoid getting out when the sun is too bright.
Pain medication
Overusing pain medicines can exacerbate headaches. When taken too regularly, prescription narcotics or medicines containing caffeine and antihistamines can interfere with the brain’s pain-regulation system. Over-the-counter pain relievers, too, can cause rebound headaches. They lower your pain threshold and make your headache feel worse, said Dr Brian Grosberg, co-director of the headache centre at the Montefiore Headache Centre in the Bronx, New York.
Remedy: Limit pain medications to two days a week and never take them more than the label allows. If your head still pounds, then stick to chamomile tea and opt for a nap.
Not eating
On busy days, you may think stress is causing your head to ache, but maybe, you just forgot to eat. “Your brain runs on two things: glucose, which comes from the food you eat, and oxygen,” Dr Freitag explained. “When it doesn’t get enough of either, the brain tells you that its needs aren ’t getting met by firing up pain-sensitive neurons.”
Remedy: Make sure you fuel up every four to six hours. To keep blood sugar steady, avoid junky sugary snacks. Instead, choose something with slow-burning protein and complex carbohydrates.
Cheddar cheese
Certain foods may bring on headaches. Fermented or aged products, including cider vinegar, soy sauce, and cheeses such as blue, Swiss and cheddar, contain tyramine, an amino acid that can trigger headaches by constricting and expanding blood vessels. Over-processed meats, such as hot dogs and salami, pack a double blow since they often contain both tyramine and preservatives called nitrates, which can increase blood flow to the brain.
Remedy: Keep track of what you eat and when your headaches strike. If you find that certain foods are triggers, try not consuming them and see if it helps. If you’re craving a sandwich, choose fresh meats instead of processed.
Magnesium deficiency
If you’re not getting enough of this vital element, you may suffer from headaches. Dr Mauskop’s research has found that up to 50% of people who suffer from acute migraine attacks have low levels of magnesium in their blood.
Remedy: Add more magnesium-rich foods to your diet, including green vegetables such as spinach, whole grains, fish, seeds and nuts. If you don’t get enough magnesium in your diet, you may need to take a supplement of anywhere from 200 to 600 mg per day.
Computer usage
Studies show that headaches from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) are common, according to the American Optometric Association. And despite the name, this condition causes problems for more than just the eyes. The continuous flexing of the eye-focusing muscles creates fatigue, eyestrain and headaches.
Remedy: Follow good ergonomics to prevent computer eyestrain and the headaches that erupt as a result. Set your monitor, so the top of the screen is slightly below eye level. Also, sit up straight and make sure your chair supports your neck and back, Dr Freitag said.
Teeth clenching
If you often suffer from morning headaches, then head to the dentist. A lesser-known but common reason for headaches is clenching or grinding your teeth at night. Known as bruxism, this condition can most commonly get triggered by stress. Certain medications or poor tooth alignment could also be a cause. Most people grind their teeth in their sleep at some time in their lives, but many never find out.
Remedy: Ask your dentist to check for signs of tooth-grinding, including cracked or worn-down teeth. You may be fitted with a custom night guard, which keeps your teeth from touching and helps realign your bite while you sleep. If you want to skip the dental visit, try relaxing before bed with a warm bath, meditate or practice deep-breathing exercises.
(ref from The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2014.)
OxygenWorldwide can help by taking care of cluster headache (horton’s disease) patients check out

Cluster headaches explained

Recognised over 100 years ago, this condition is different from migraine.
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It is a “disorder producing extreme, strictly unilateral pain, localised in or around the eye.”
Cluster headache (CH) sufferers deserve more attention, as the pain is often described as one of the most painful conditions known to mankind, with female patients describing the pain of attacks as worse than childbirth.
A study in the UK suggests between 1 and 5 sufferers per GP and between 34,000 and 150,000 sufferers in the UK with prevalence in men is 3 to 4 times higher. It usually begins between the ages of 20 and 40 years but can start at any age.
It is still not known why some individuals suffer from CH or why they exhibit the characteristic periodicity. However, progress is being made and a number of theories are plausible and may help progress with new treatments. First-degree relatives of CH patients are more likely to have CH than the general population. About 1 in 20 sufferers has another family member who also has CH.
The pain is centred around or behind the eye, temple or forehead, although the neck and other parts of the head can be involved. Pain is accompanied by nasal congestion, eyelid swelling, facial sweating and nausea may accompany the pain, but is much less of a feature than with migraine. Sufferers, unlike with migraine, cannot keep still and are described typically as restless. Patients pace around, occasionally banging their heads on walls and furniture.
Patients should be encouraged to have both acute and preventative treatments available. This may involve completion of Home Oxygen plus maintain a regular sleep routine and good sleep hygiene (avoiding tea, coffee, etc).
Oxygen – 100% oxygen, given for 15 minutes up to five times per day, is safe and effective in 80% of cases. It is given by a tight-fitting mask and is particularly useful for night attacks.
Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, have also been very helpful to some patients but in the majority home oxygen therapy is the most effective.