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Medicines may stop a
cluster headache after it starts and prevent
more headaches from occurring. Finding the right medicine can take some
time. You may need a combination of medicines to effectively treat your cluster
Treatments most often used to stop cluster headaches
Medicines that prevent cluster headaches during a cluster
You must take these
medicines every day during a cycle of headaches, even on days when you don't
get a headache.
Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as aspirin, acetaminophen,
and ibuprofen, usually don't relieve the severe pain of cluster headaches.
Also, prescription narcotic pain medicines are not recommended for cluster
cluster headache occurs, it is important to treat it as early as possible with the
medicine your doctor has recommended. The sooner you treat the headache, the
less painful it may be.
The choice of medicine may depend on the
time of day when your headaches tend to occur. Some people may need a
combination of two or three medicines. Keeping track of your symptoms can help your
doctor determine the proper medicine. You can keep track by using a
headache diaryheadache diary(What is a PDF document?).
If you don't get headaches often, you may only need to
take medicines after the headaches begin. If you get headaches often, you
may need to take medicines daily during a cluster period to prevent a future
headache or reduce the number of headaches in a cycle.
If your headaches become more severe and medicines aren't
working, let your doctor know. You may need to try a different medicine or a
combination of medicines. You may also need to be referred to a hospital or
headache clinic for more intensive treatment.
The National Headache Foundation is a nonprofit
organization dedicated to three major goals: educating the public that
headaches are serious disorders and that sufferers need understanding and
continuity of care; promoting research into potential headache causes and
treatments; and serving as an information resource for sufferers, their
families, and doctors who treat them. The NHF can provide lists of local
doctors specializing in headache treatment. It also has a monthly newsletter
and many pamphlets on a variety of topics related to the different headache
Cohen AS, et al. (2009). High-flow oxygen for treatment of cluster headache: A randomized trial. JAMA, 302(22): 2451–2457.
January 27, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
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