Broaching Cluster

My New Year’s resolution for IHC is to increase awareness for headache and facial pain.  I will take the next several blog posts to go over basic headache information and some lifestyle strategies that can help.

In general, terms used to describe primary headache syndromes are often misunderstood and misused.  Labeling a headache does not change the degree of burden on an individual, but putting a name to it can help with coping and, from a medical perspective, correctly identifying the neurological process can better guide treatment and facilitate communication with other providers.

The International Headache Society published the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD), updated to the third edition in the past few years.  The main primary headache syndromes include migraine, tension-type headache, and trigeminal autonomic cephalgias.  While the first two are terms commonly used (sometimes misused) in everyday discussions, the last is more obscure.

Briefly, trigeminal autonomic cephalgias (TACs) are one-sided headaches accompanied by autonomic features such as lacrimation, flushing, runny or stuffy nose on the side of the head where the headache is occurring. This class of headaches includes types like hemicrania continua (literally: hemi = half, crania = head – continuous headache on one side of the head) and “cluster headache.”

Cluster headache deserves a blog of its own, which is upcoming as we cover basic headache topics.  Cluster headache is the most painful headache condition known to mankind.  Indeed, this headache type was once referred to as “suicide headache”. 

The Cluster Headache image by JD Fletcher via Wikimedia Commons