Cluster Headaches: Conditions With Similar Symptoms

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Topic Overview

In general, headaches have many causes, including tension or changes to blood vessels (vascular changes). But only a few other conditions have symptoms that are similar to cluster headaches, such as:

  • Migraine headaches , which cause one-sided pain in the head, face, and neck. But while migraine pain starts on one side of the head, it may spread to the entire head—something a cluster headache does not do. Also, migraine auras, such as seeing bright lights or wavy lines prior to getting the headache, do not usually occur in cluster headaches. Cluster headaches usually appear suddenly without warning.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia , which causes sudden, one-sided, intense facial pain. This pain usually lasts for only a few seconds to a couple of minutes but can also be a long-term problem.
  • Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH), which also causes short headache attacks, but mostly in women. Unlike cluster headaches, CPH responds well to a medicine called indomethacin, which can help the doctor tell the difference between CPH and cluster headaches.

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Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerColin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology

Current as ofMarch 12, 2014