are not accompanied by a fever or greenish
You probably don't have a sinus
problem. An estimated 90% of "sinus problems" are really migraine or
cluster headaches which haven't been properly diagnosed. See
Is It Sinusitis?
Do you have some or all of the following sinus/allergy problems your doctor can't
Attacks often ...
awakens sufferer from sleep after about an hour of going to bed
start with visual aura (flashing or multi-colored lights, or zigzag
Pain is ...
steady, severe to excruciating, always on the same side, beneath,
behind or above one eye
throbbing, moderate to severe
Pain located ...
in and around one eye; may have tearing eye, drooping eyelid, stuffed or runny nostril, sweating over
the eyebrow of affected side
on one side of head
Light and sound ...
distracts from pain
When having an attack, sufferer...
is active, and craves distraction from pain (such as radio or TV)
doesn't want to move, and craves dark, cool, quiet
Attacks last ...
45 min. - 2 hrs, in clusters of 1 - 3 per day for 4 - 8 weeks, then
none for months or years
4 - 72 hrs
Sufferers are usually ...
Cluster Headache Symptoms
Severe pain, always on the same side, beneath, behind or above one eye (as
though caused by a sinus problem)
Pain preceded by nasal stuffiness and/or drainage
Nose and eye on
that side swollen, red and runny, eyelid may
Doctors only find clear discharge, and medications for sinus problems don't
change your symptoms. True sinus infections have
colored mucous discharge; clear discharge means no infection.
Attacks sometimes awaken you after you've been asleep for an hour or so
Pain lasts 45 min - 2 hours
Pain so severe you have thought of (or actually did) cause yourself pain
elsewhere to distract you from the pain (like hitting your head on the wall)
have an urge to move around while you're in pain (can't sit still)
You seek a distraction while you're in pain (TV, radio, etc.)
occur for some period of weeks or months, then can disappear for
long periods of time (months or years)
May reappear the same time of year,
but not be related to seasonal allergies
You are probably a male
(although some females are also affected)
You may not have a sinus problem; you may be suffering from cluster
Cluster headaches are related to migraine headaches; in general men
get clusters, women get migraines.
Cluster headaches are the most severe pains known; individuals have been
known to commit suicide to end the pain. A headache expert described
cluster headaches as "the mother of all headaches, the suicidal
They're rare, affecting about 0.04% of the
recent study showed that men who suffer chronic headaches are up to
four times more likely to have a stroke than men who do not
have headaches (women's results were statistically insignificant.)
You don't have to suffer! See a neurologist
and tell him or her you have symptoms consistent with
cluster headaches (print
this page and take it along).
Prescription medications exist to reduce or eliminate the pain for
both migraine and cluster headaches. Imitrex®
(sumatriptan) is available in tablet form, along with newer
members of the triptan family (but never for people with a previous
history of strokes, heart attacks or uncontrolled hypertension.) Other drugs are also helpful. A
recent study showed that intranasal Zolmitriptan provided significant
relief; 61% who took 10 mg. had headache relief, while 42% who took 5
also pain-free after 30 minutes.
Oxygen therapy can stop an attack in minutes. 100%
oxygen at 8-10 liters/minute for no longer than 10 minutes. Stop
after 10 minutes; longer does no good and can
cause lung damage.
Obstructive sleep apnea may be a factor in up to 44% of
cluster headache patients. If the apnea is treated, the cluster
headaches may disappear.
Tips to alleviating migraine and cluster headaches.
Keep a diary of your symptoms, the foods you eat and your
activities. Examination of the results may show relationships
which can lead to reduction of attacks.
Avoid the "trigger" foods and productslisted
This alone may be enough to alleviate your problem. Attacks
which tend to occur seasonally may be due to consumption of trigger
foods during that season (such as hot dogs with sauerkraut and beer or
during ball games in the summer.)
Magnesium has been found to help some sufferers. Take
up to 500 mg daily (more can cause diarrhea), it's cheap and you may
not have to do anything more. The citrate version may cause
less digestive upset than oxide.
Avoid cigarette smoke. If you
smoke, stop or at least cut down to ½ pack/day,
which can cut headaches by 50% without any medication; however
use of a nicotine substitute prevents the improvement. Progress
may take some months to appear.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 400 mg.
daily may also be helpful.
Feverfew leaf (a herb) can also help (often used in
combination with the above). Check your local health-food store.
Melatonin and/or butterbur might help. A recent study of migraine
sufferers found that 3 mg. of melatonin taken 30 min. before bedtime
reduced half the headaches in 78% of subjects. Also, 75 mg. of
butterbur twice daily reduced headache frequency by 48%. While no study
has been done regarding clusters, there may be similar results since
migraines and clusters are closely related.
A 2003 study in
the Netherlands showed that the average time to reach a correct
diagnosis for cluster headaches was 3 years, but extended
all the way back to 48 years! I suffered with
"sinus" pain for about 25 years, with assorted
medications (sprays and pills), even sinus surgery. I thought that
my current ear, nose and throat doctor was crazy when he referred
me to a neurologist for my "sinus" complaint, but the
neurologist listened to my troubles, examined me, gave me a list
of foods and products to avoid, and prescribed a headache
medicine, Imitrex® autoinjectors, which stopped the pain in 15
minutes! I resisted injecting myself (being "needle-phobic") but the pain drove me
to it, and the relief was amazing. It didn't solve the problem
right away, but it was the beginning. I now know what to
expect, and what foods to avoid when I feel a series of cluster headaches may be starting; I've been able to avoid them for years
but I do get occasional ocular migraines which are not nearly as
Use the links below to help find answers to your problem.