Cluster headaches could be linked to other medical conditions – study

Dr Zoe Williams reveals painkiller overuse can cause headaches

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The Cleveland Clinic states that at least 96 percent of people will experience a headache at least once in their lifetime. While primary headaches have no underlying cause, secondary headaches reflect inflammation in pain-sensitive structures. What causes this inflammation is not well-understood, but new scientific findings suggest the likelihood of an underlying condition may be highly probable.

A study of more than 3,000 people has suggested cluster headaches could be more than three times more likely to have other medical conditions.

According to the findings, these conditions may include heart disease, mental disorders and other neurological diseases.

The findings published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, highlight the importance of managing frequent headaches, which are a major cause of work absence across the world.

Cluster headaches describe very intense headaches that cause severe pain in one side of the head.

According to Harvard Health, the headaches tend to start in the area in one eye before spreading to nearby areas of the face.

These episodes tend to last about a half-hour to three hours and episodes can occur several times over 24 hours.

The health body also states that headaches tend to occur mainly at night, and more frequently in men than in women.

The link between these headaches and other underlying conditions was established from a study of 3,240 people with the condition who were compared to 16,2000 people of a similar age.

Among participants with cluster headaches, 92 percent of participants had at least one additional illness.

Of the participants without cluster headaches, 78 percent had two or more illnesses.

The findings revealed that of those with cluster headaches, more women had additional illnesses than men, 96 percent and 90 percent respectively.

Study author Caroline Ran, from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said: “Around the world, headaches have an incredible impact on people’s quality of life, both economically and socially.

“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 expert continued: “Increasing our understanding of the other conditions that affect people with cluster headaches and how they impact their ability to work is very important.

“This information can help us as we make decisions on treatments, prevention and prognoses.”

How to prevent cluster headaches

The cause of cluster headaches is not clear, but they have been linked to activity in the part of the brain known as the hypothalamus.

According to the NHS, people who smoke tend to report cluster headaches more frequently.

The health body adds: “Some people who get cluster headaches have other family members who also get them, which suggests there may be a genetic link.

“Cluster headache attacks can sometimes be triggered by drinking alcohol or by strong smell, such as perfume, paint or petrol.”

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