Cluster headache, nicknamed “suicide headache”, is a neurological disease that involves, as its most prominent feature, an immense degree of pain in the head. Cluster headaches occur periodically: spontaneous remissions interrupt active periods of pain. The cause of the disease is currently unknown. It affects approximately 0.1% of the population, and men are more commonly affected than women.
Common signs and symptoms
A cluster headache strikes quickly, usually without warning. Typical signs and symptoms include:
A migraine headache is a form of vascular headache. Migraine headache is caused by vasodilatation (enlargement of blood vessels) that causes the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around the large arteries of the brain. Enlargement of these blood vessels stretches the nerves that coil around them and causes the nerves to release chemicals. The chemicals cause inflammation, pain, and further enlargement of the artery. The increasing enlargement of the arteries magnifies the pain.
Migraine attacks commonly activate the sympathetic nervous system in the body. The sympathetic nervous system is often thought of as the part of the nervous system that controls primitive responses to stress and pain, the so-called “fight or flight” response, and this activation causes many of the symptoms associated with migraine attacks; for example, the increased sympathetic nervous activity in the intestine causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults. They are commonly referred to as stress headaches.
A tension headache may appear periodically (“episodic,” less than 15 days per month) or daily (“chronic,” more than 15 days per month). An episodic tension headache may be described as a mild to moderate constant band-like pain, tightness, or pressure around the forehead or back of the head and neck.
These headaches may last from 30 minutes to several days. Episodic tension headaches usually begin gradually, and often occur in the middle of the day.