By John Salak –
Cluster headaches are short and painful episodes that occur for days or even weeks in a row. They can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours, the Mayo Clinic reports. That’s the bad news. The good news is that cluster headaches are rare and are not life-threatening, even if they are temporarily devastating for sufferers.
Unfortunately, new research indicates that people with cluster headaches are three times more likely to suffer from other medical conditions, such as heart disease, mental disorders and other neurological issues. The study’s results mean those facing these attacks should be aware of associated health threats.
Cluster headaches affect approximately one out of every 1,000 people, significantly lower than the estimated 10 percent of the population with migraines, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The attacks usually start appearing between 20 and 40, and recent research suggests they affect people equally.
The pain aside, individuals under a cluster headache attack can suffer from restlessness, excessive tearing and red eyes, pain on one side of the face or neck, stuffy or running noses, forehead or facial sweating and drooping eyelids. If these symptoms are bad enough, fatigue factors into the equation.
“Around the world, headaches have an incredibly negative impact on people’s quality of life, both economically and socially,” noted Caroline Ran, the recent study’s author and a member of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. “Our results show that people with cluster headaches not only have an increased risk of other illnesses, those with at least one additional illness missed four times as many days of work due to sickness and disability than those with just cluster headaches. They also have a higher chance of a long-term absence from work.”
The Swedish researchers studied more than 3,200 people with cluster headaches, comparing them with 16,200 other people who didn’t suffer from these attacks but were similar in age, sex and other factors.
Among those with cluster headaches, 92 percent had at least one other illness compared with 78 percent of people with didn’t suffer from these attacks. They missed twice as much work due to sickness and disability as those without these headaches.
The study focus was admittedly limited. It identified an association between these headaches and the increased likelihood that sufferers were also confronting other issues. The work, however, stopped short of being able to establish that these headaches caused other medical problems or vice versa.
Nonetheless, the research team maintains its work has created a foundation. “Increasing our understanding of the other conditions that affect people with cluster headaches and how they impact their ability to work is very important,” added Ran. “This information can help us decide on treatments, prevention and prognoses.”