Opinions - Cluster Headaches or Migraines?

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Posted by Ted ( on January 26, 2002 at 12:16:22:

I am a 30 year old male from Ohio, I occasionally suffer from horrific (~8-10 on the Kip Scale) headaches and have been told they are likely Cluster Headaches. In the past I been diagnosed with Migraines, but I'm not so sure. I know my mother and two of my sisters had Migraines, but my Maternal Grandfather and two of my Maternal Uncles were diagnosed with Cluster Headaches.

The pain is downright surreal, I can usually describe it as having white-hot pokers jammed into my head from several angles. Pulling on my hair and beating my head on the wall actually seem to help. I keep an icepack in the freezer, and wrap it around my head when I feel the onset of the headache. Sometimes this actually seems to reduce the headache pain, but it may only be distracting me from it (the icepack gets painfully cold).

My headaches started when I was about 15 and are characterized by the following symptoms:

- Severe throbbing pain on both sides, usually starting at the top of my head and spreads, rapidly enveloping my entire head.
- Very fast onset, usually <30 minutes from "no pain" to pain levels 8-10. About the same in reverse.
- Sparkles (usually in peripheral vision) and weird shadows/highlights in my vision
- Buzzing or hissing sound (when the headache is at its worst)
- Occasionaly severe nausea, rarely vomitting (maybe 2 times in 15 years)
- Inability to sleep, but lying down in a quiet, completly dark room helps, but I fidget and change positions a lot
- Twitching, reduced motor control on right side of face, right arm/hand
- Vertigo, sometimes severe (probably the cause of the nausea)
- More frequent between January through April, but also happen completely out of the blue.
- Usually lasts 3-4 hours, but sometimes comes back with reduced intensity 1-2 times spaced out by 3-4 hours.
- Excedrin works if I catch the headache quickly, I have been on a number of prescription meds, but none of them were of much help after the headache progressed past pain level 4.

I actually just finished a bout which lasted from about 9AM and just started to go away at 11:30 AM. It reached a pain level of about 8 and I'm now pretty exauhsted.

Any opinions?

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