Cluster headaches begin quickly and without warning. The pain is very severe and is often described as a sharp, burning or piercing sensation on one side of the head.
It’s often felt around the eye, temple and sometimes face. It tends to affect the same side for each attack. Cluster headaches are rare. Anyone can get them, but they’re more common in men and tend to start when a person is in their 30s or 40s.
The exact cause of cluster headaches is not clear, but they have been linked to activity in part of the brain called the hypothalamus. People who smoke seem to have a higher risk of getting cluster headaches. Some people who get cluster headaches have other family members who also get them, which suggests there may be a genetic link.
Cluster headaches usually happen every day, in bouts lasting several weeks or months at a time (typically 4 to 12 weeks), before they subside. A symptom-free period (remission) will often follow. People tend to get cluster headaches at the same time each day. They’ll often get cluster headaches every year for many years and they may be lifelong.
Vagus nerve stimulation is a treatment that uses gentle stimulation to a nerve in the neck. It helps to relieve pain and reduce the number of cluster headaches. It can be used to treat cluster headaches when you get them, and can also be used between attacks to prevent them from happening.