Cluster headaches occur in a cyclical pattern, or cluster, which can last fifteen to 180-minutes for weeks to months. They are the most severe of headaches and are referred to by some as “suicide headaches.” The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown. They are more common in men and typically start before age 30. A study from Germany estimates 1 in 1,000 adults experience cluster headaches. Symptoms include intense pain in or around an eye with associated redness, excessive tearing, swelling, constriction of pupil, eyelid drooping, and nasal discharge or congestion.
Ten treatments for cluster headaches are…
Oxygen is a first-line agent in the acute treatment of cluster headaches. It is considered an abortive medication, which is intended to stop cluster headaches from progressing any further. In a trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, inhaled oxygen (100-percent) at 12-liters/minute was more effective than placebo in eliminating pain after 15-minutes of administration (78-percent vs. 20-percent).
An Australian trial suggested that hyperbaric oxygen (administered at environmental pressures greater than 1-atmosphere) was more effective than normobaric oxygen (administered at 1-atmosphere) at aborting cluster headaches.
There are no reported adverse effects when administering oxygen in the acute treatment of cluster headaches. The administration of hyperbaric oxygen has two significant drawbacks—cost and lack of accessibility. The cost of administration of normobaric oxygen is cheap, but this method of treatment suffers from inconvenience and lack of accessibility. No evidence exists indicating oxygen prevents future cluster headaches.