Bam! Cluster headaches get super intense in seconds.

"Then (there is) 15 to 20 minutes of this pain, which is so severe that patients often cannot sit still. They have to get up, pace around, maybe push on the head or bang things against the head. And then, again, it shuts off like a light switch," says Dr. Carrie Robertson, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

People who suffer from cluster headaches, which are different than other headaches or migraines, might have up to eight episodes a day for up to 12 months. Then they shut off as abruptly as they started before another cycle begins.

Experts aren't sure what causes cluster headaches. One theory is that an abnormality in your biological clock may be involved. Cluster headaches can happen without a trigger, and they tend to be seasonal, occurring in the fall.

There's no cure for cluster headaches, but treatments are available to decrease the severity of pain, shorten the headache period and prevent the attacks.

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Cluster headache treatment options may include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Triptans
  • Local anesthetics

Preventive strategies are medications you take at the very start of a headache and may include:

  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Corticosteroids
  • Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation

"We've made a lot of progress in the past 10 years, but we're actively pursuing additional treatments on an ongoing basis," says Dr. Robertson.

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