Painful headaches that tend to occur repeatedly over a short period of time are known as cluster headaches, these one-sided headaches take place in clusters consisting of several headaches, and then they apparently disappear and go abate for extended periods lasting weeks or months at times.
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Chronic cluster headaches are those that continue unmitigated and persist for stretches of one year or more without remission, and abate for periods lasting less than fourteen days at a time, these chronic forms of cluster headaches are very hard to stop and cannot be treated easily as they are very persistent.
Some of the typical physical symptoms that come on during the occurrence of cluster headaches are the appearance of extreme pain in the eye or in the areas of the upper face, these sensations can be tearing sensations, along with the occurrence of a runny nose often accompanied by nasal congestion, and sweating in the facial region.
Cluster headaches as a condition can be triggered by sensitivity or allergy to certain foodstuffs in some people, so suggest doctors who deal with these types of condition. Even though controlled studies have not been undertaken as yet to show a connection between diet types and the occurrence of cluster headaches, other related conditions like the migraine headache is well established and has been verified.
The consumption of alcoholic beverages is known to bring about severe attacks of cluster type headaches and this is borne out further by the fact that many people with cluster headaches are heavy drinkers or alcoholics. This is still to be verified in a controlled situation as research has still to be conducted on the connection between the occurrence of cluster headaches and the avoidance of alcohol by patients.
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Smokers are still another demographic group who are prone to be affected with cluster headaches. This does not necessary indicate that people affected with cluster headaches will suddenly be relieved of the headaches of they quit smoking, smoking as a habit must be left for other reasons all connected to the health of the individual.
Preliminary investigations done on patients afflicted by cluster headaches showed improvement through the use of intravenous injections of magnesium, this is potentially beneficial in the light of knowledge that low blood magnesium levels are commonly observed in people who suffer from cluster headaches. This effect of oral supplementation on the development of cluster headaches in individuals is still to be scientifically verified and only clinical trials will determine if at all supplements of magnesium will help patients with cluster headaches.
Cluster headache patients are also characterized by the presence of low levels of the hormone melatonin-in such patients this neurotransmitter substance was detected at very low levels in the brain. A fourteen day double-blind trial, involved the consumption of a 10 mg dose of melatonin in the evenings by a group of cluster headache patients.
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The experiences of the group are as follows: approximately half of the group felt a significant decrease in the frequency of occurrence of the headaches about three to five days into the supplementation, and the headaches disappeared altogether after this period only to reappear again on the discontinuation of the melatonin. Both the episodic and chronic forms of cluster headaches appear to respond to supplements of melatonin.
However, prolonged studies are yet to be conducted to find out if there are long-term effects because of melatonin supplementation on the occurrence and the presence of cluster headache in patients afflicted with the condition.
Some of the symptoms that commonly occur during an attack of cluster type headaches may be produced through the agency of substance P, this neurotransmitter is involved in the transmission of painful sensations in the brain that produce the symptoms during an attack of the cluster type headache.
The levels of this substance P in the nerves of the person can be reduced by the presence of capsaicin, which is the chief chemical constituent of cayenne pepper and other chilies. A significant reduction in the frequency of cluster type headaches was observed in some of the patients undergoing studies during preliminary clinical trials that involved the use of intranasal capsaicin in an attempt to see the preventive or therapeutic action of the substance on the person afflicted with cluster headaches.
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While some of the patients apparently found relief from cluster headaches that lasted up to two years in some cases, most of the reduction in symptoms lasted for no more than 40 days at the end of treatment. Similar to the previous study, another double-blind study of patients afflicted with cluster headaches received capsaicin intranasally two times each day for a treatment period lasting seven days and while having an episode of cluster headaches, this treatment brought about a significant reduction in the painful sensations for at least 15 days after the initial start of supplementation.
A qualified doctor must always be present to supervise the use of capsaicin during supplementation as this substance can cause burning and irritation to the patient bringing about a lot of discomfort to the patient.
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Cluster headaches have been found to be easily treatable through the use of oxygen therapy in the majority of patients. Some significant result were obtained involving patients suffering from cluster headaches during a double-blind trial where a comparison was made, during the experiment patients were allowed to breathe 100% oxygen for 15 minutes and also to breathe ordinary air containing both nitrogen and oxygen through a mask for another 15 minutes, the observations were made over six headache episodes per person in the trail and the comparison drawn up.
The incidences of acute attacks of cluster headaches were significantly reduced in all patients when the 100% oxygen was used for respiration by the patients during the study. The act of breathing 100% oxygen through a mask for fifteen minutes during an attack of acute cluster headache during another controlled study significantly reduced the painful sensation in most of the people in the study who suffered from episodic cluster headache; this same effect was observed in another half of those patients afflicted with headaches.
It has to be remembered that attacks of cluster headaches reemerged in approximately one-fourth of the participants in the study on the discontinuation of the treatment. This particular treatment methodology cannot prevent recurrences of cluster headaches, and most treatments need to be repeated, however this form of the oxygen inhalation therapy is now considered a standard treatment in all patients afflicted with cluster type headaches.
The use of concentrated oxygen alone has been shown to be beneficial in some patients suffering from the episodic form of cluster headaches at least, here certain subjects were put in a controlled study, involving a single treatment of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, during which the patients were placed in a chamber filled with highly concentrated oxygen, the patients found that the painful sensation was appreciably minimized and furthermore the symptoms were prevented from recurring for at least several days following the treatment.
Patients suffering from the chronic form of cluster headaches were also treated through in two studies that involved the use of multiple treatments of hyperbaric oxygen in the patients undertaking the experiment. Most of the patients found relief from the headaches after ten 70-minute treatments over 2 weeks carried out as a part of a small and preliminary trial.
As far as the patients who responded to the treatment were concerned, the persistent headaches did not recur for one to thirty one days following the treatment. Some patients with chronic cluster headache undertook 15 hyperbaric oxygen treatment sessions, lasting for 30 minutes each and undertaken every other day during another small and preliminary study. In some of the patients undertaking the study, improved results were observed showing a gradual decrease in episodic attacks; these persisted for up to fourteen days following the discontinuation of the treatment sessions.