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Cluster Headache FAQs (cont.)

Should a person with cluster headaches see a doctor?

Yes. Because of the severity of cluster headaches, the vast majority of people who have them seek medical care very soon. Those who do not must understand that a full evaluation by a doctor is needed to rule out the rare cases of cluster headache -like symptoms that might indicate meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord), subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), or brain tumor.

A doctor should be called if a person has any of the following problems:

  • A change in frequency, severity, or features of the headaches typically experienced
  • A progressively worsening headache that lasts for days
  • A headache brought on by what doctors call Valsalva maneuvers (coughing, sneezing, bearing down, straining while on the toilet)
  • Unintentional great weight loss
  • Weakness or paralysis that lasts after a headache stops

Persons with any of the following problems should go or be taken to a hospital emergency department:

  • The worst headache of a person’s life, especially if the headache comes on suddenly
  • Headache associated with trauma to the head
  • Trauma to the head with loss of consciousness
  • Fever or stiff neck associated with a headache
  • Decreased level of consciousness or confusion
  • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Seizures
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2014
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Cluster headache (CH) is an idiopathic syndrome consisting of recurrent brief attacks of sudden, severe, unilateral periorbital pain.

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