Posts Tagged "seasonal headache"

CLUSTER HEADACHES THROUGH THE CHANGING SEASONS.

@Neuralgroover

Cluster headaches are often considered the most severe type of headaches experienced by headache sufferers. It is often referred to as “suicide headache” because it is so severe, and unfortunately quite a few have committed suicide due to the extreme pain.

 

Cluster headache is 1 of 4 types of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia syndromes (TACs). The headaches within this headache TACs family share some overlapping features, but have distinct differences, and are all treated much differently. So it is important to first properly confirm the diagnosis of cluster headache and clarify that it is not one of the other TACs.  The ICHD3 criteria classify cluster headache as a strictly one sided headache around the eye, temple, forehead which can last anywhere between 15 minutes up to 3 hours. On the same side of the headache, they must be associated with at least one “autonomic feature” which means a tearing and/or red eye, nasal congestion and/or runny nose, eyelid swelling or puffiness, forehead and/or facial sweating, small pupil and/or drooping eyelid. The patient often has a sense of restlessness or agitation and classically paces around the room, sometimes yelling out in pain (in contrast to migraine where the patient often wants to stay still and quiet in bed).

 

They are called cluster headaches because the headaches come in “clusters”. They may be headache free all year and then all of a sudden develop daily headaches which can occur multiple times per day (sometimes up to 8 times per day). They often occur around the same time every night or during the day, often waking the patient up from sleep around the same time nightly. These cycles of daily frequent attacks can last several weeks to several months. The majority of people who suffer from cluster headaches experience them for about 12 weeks each year, most often when the season changes (Summer to Fall and Spring to Summer). It’s one of the most painful types of headaches and is often more intense than a migraine. Let’s take a look at how cluster headaches happen during seasonal changes and what you can do about them.




Why Do Cluster Headaches Happen During the Fall and Spring?

Many people go months or years in between cluster headache cycles. When the cycles start again, they are often tied to changes in the seasons during Fall and Spring. However, cluster headaches can and do certainly come on outside of season changes as well.

 

Changing influences on the body’s biological clock (hypothalamus) have been a long suspected cause of cluster headache, and still felt to be the most likely culprit. Changes in seasons and daylight savings time changes are often associated with cluster headache flares. Daylight savings time changes impact our sleep patterns. When sleep patterns change, this changes the amount of natural light we are exposed to. For a headache sufferer, this can increase headache patterns. Changes in the amount of natural light that a person is exposed to during sleep-wake cycle changes can influence the body’s normal biological rhythms by influencing the hypothalamus. The result for many patients with cluster headache is that the cluster cycle can then be “turned on”.

 

Decreased natural light exposure during the Fall season due to a shorter duration of daylight may also impact a person’s sleep cycle. Loss of sleep may reduce endorphins (our natural pain-killers) in the body and also play a role in reducing the body’s pain tolerance threshold. A study suggested that a loss of 1 to 3 hours of sleep per night over a period of a few days could result in a headache that lasted from anywhere to 1 hour or a day. Migraine is also often very sensitive to inadequate sleep, which is a common trigger.

 

Why Do Seasonal Changes Cause Cluster Headaches

The change in hypothalamic circadian biological rhythms related to changes in sleep-wake cycles and exposure to natural light remain the most commonly suspected cause for cluster headache. However, the exact, true cause of cluster headaches are still not entirely known. Thus, there have been other theories of what causes cluster headaches as well, including changes in barometric pressure, and histamine release related to seasonal allergy changes.

 

There are a lot of headache triggers that happen during the Fall season including decreases in humidity and temperature which are associated with increases in barometric pressure. When you begin getting into Spring, Summer and warmer months, there tends to be more of a decrease in barometric pressure. These barometric pressure changes are classic migraine triggers for many patients. However, a possible relation to cluster headache has also been suggested. The exact barometric pressure that will lead to cluster headaches will vary depending on the individual. For example, a pressure of 1003 to 1007 hPa was found as a migraine trigger point in an NIH study. A specific pressure change of 6 to 10 hPa (the specific drop in air pressure) was also identified as a range in pressure drop that could cause a cluster headache or migraine.

 

Seasonal allergies have also been suggested to possibly play a role in migraines and cluster headaches. Increased allergies during season changes leads to increased histamine levels and sinus symptoms for some people. Deep within the nasal passageways lies some nervous system structures including the olfactory nerves (which allow you to smell), and important headache and facial pain related nerve ganglia, such as the SPG (sphenopalatine ganglia). For example, the SPG is sometimes blocked (SPG block) by numbing medications to abort various types of headache and facial pain including cluster headache, migraine, and trigeminal neuralgia.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder also could be linked to various types of headaches that one experiences throughout the year. Certain people may experience a predisposition to anxiety and depression due to seasonal changes, and this may lead to headaches and insomnia.

 

Symptoms of Cluster Headaches

Seasonal cluster headaches can start at any age, however, most people tend to start experiencing these between the ages of 20 to 50. They tend to affect men more than women (in contrast to migraine which is the reverse). To review, some of the symptoms of a cluster headache can include:

  • Redness, swelling, and watering/tearing around the eye on the side of the head where the cluster headache is occurring.
  • A stuffed/congested and runny nose on the same side of the headache.
  • Pale skin and sweating.
  • Drooping of the eyelid and small pupil size on the side of the headache.
  • Sense of restlessness or agitation during the attack.

 

Some of the other headaches that a person might experience include anxiety, and waking up at night. Chronic cluster headache sufferers may notice an intensification of their headaches during the change to fall. If you have cluster headaches occurring for one year or longer without remission, or with remission periods lasting less than 3 months, you fall into the chronic cluster category, which is a small minority of cluster headache patients.




How To Alleviate Cluster Headaches That Are Brought On By Seasonal Changes

There are some very basic things that you can do if you suffer from cluster headaches during seasonal changes. Avoiding alcohol and smoking will help reduce the onset of cluster headaches for some. For example, alcohol is a classic trigger for cluster headache when a patient is in a susceptible cluster headache cycle. Sometimes even the smell of alcohol can trigger an attack. When the same person is outside of their cluster cycle, alcohol does not trigger the attack. So for those that drink alcohol and are unsure if their cluster cycle is done (if they are susceptible to an alcohol trigger), consuming alcohol will often let them know! The hormone melatonin can help regulate your sleep cycle, helping you rest better. Some studies have suggested melatonin levels are lower during a cluster cycle. The dose ranges from 5-15 mg taken about 2 hours before bedtime.

 

Otherwise, the key cluster headache treatments involve having a good abortive (as needed) treatment for when an attack happens, and a good preventive treatment to lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. The following treatments are most commonly used for cluster headaches. However, any treatment should be prescribed and discussed with your doctor because you may have other medical conditions which could make some of these treatments dangerous or life-threatening if being used inappropriately. For example, use of triptans or Dihydroergotamine (DHE) in someone with cardiac disease could cause heart attack or stroke. Use of steroids such as prednisone in someone with an ulcer could cause death by gastrointestinal bleed, or in diabetes could lead to diabetic coma and a visit to the intensive care unit due to excess glucose in the blood. Use of oxygen around smoking could cause an explosion. There are many other examples, which is why any treatment should always be provided and discussed first with your regular medical doctor. Also, you should never use treatments given by a friend if they have a similar headache disorder without first consulting with your doctor.

 

Abortive Treatment For Cluster Headaches

In appropriate patients, as soon as a cluster cycle starts, we often use a course of prednisone. Although this can be adjusted depending on the patient’s medical history, I typically start with 70 mg daily in the morning (since often energizing) with food for 3 days, decreasing by 10 mg every 3 days until off. This often helps to break up and shorten a cycle. Occipital nerve block on the same side of the headache for 1-3 days can also be effective in breaking up and shortening a cycle.

 

100% oxygen consumed by a non-rebreather facemask at cluster attack onset at 12-15 liters per minute for 10 to 15 minutes is very effective for many people.

 

Triptans have been a standard treatment abortively for not only migraine, but also for cluster headache. The difference is that oral triptans are not generally prescribed for cluster headache sufferers because the headache will frequently peak after the medication has had the opportunity to be absorbed by the body. Injectable triptans (Sumatriptan) is the fastest acting, often working within minutes. Nasal spray triptans (Sumatriptan, Zolmitriptan) are the next fastest options.

 

Dihydroergotamine (DHE) is also a good option, especially if not responding to triptans or having multiple attacks daily (DHE can last longer). Injection is the most effective, followed by the nasal spray versions).

 

Neuromodulatory devices can also be effective in aborting a cluster attack. GammaCore is a vagus nerve stimulator device that you can carry with you and it is FDA cleared for the abortive treatment of cluster headache. It is the only device currently with this clearance and indication. SPG (sphenopalatine ganglion) blocks can also be done in a variety of ways between the office or under sedation with pain management. There was a small surgically implantable SPG stimulator (implanted through the roof of the mouth) which could be turned on with the press of a button from a handheld device which seemed very promising and effective, but unfortunately got held up and blocked in regulatory processes and red tape. Hopefully this will be revived in the future.

 

Preventive Treatment For Cluster Headaches

Verapamil is often considered the gold standard of cluster headache prevention to try to stop the frequency of attacks and shorten the cluster cycle duration. It is typically started at the onset of a cluster cycle and titrated up to a higher dose depending on how the cluster attacks are responding, and how the patient is tolerating it. This is a blood pressure class of medication, so needs to be used cautiously in those with normal or low blood pressure, or if taking other blood pressure medications. Clinically, it tends to work better in the immediate release form taken three times daily as opposed to the once daily long acting version. I typically start with 40 mg or 80 mg (depending on baseline blood pressure) three times daily and increase by 40 mg every 3 days (assuming no dizziness, lightheadedness, excess fatigue, etc.) until helping or 120 mg three times daily. Although for some patients, much higher doses are required. Checking an EKG is recommended when making higher dose changes to ensure no heart block. Longer-term use of this prescription drug can be considered for chronic cluster headache or high frequency cycles through the year.

 

Emgality (Galcanezumab) ​​is one of the four available CGRP monoclonal antibodies. These are all made for migraine prevention. However, Emgality is unique in that it is currently the only FDA approved medication for prevention of episodic cluster headache. Notably, Emgality dosing is different for cluster headache prevention (300 mg injection per month) compared to migraine prevention (120 mg injection per month).

 

Other types of preventative treatments for cluster headaches include anti-seizure medications, typically starting with Divalproex (Depakote) or Topiramate (Topamax). For more refractory cases, Lithium is sometimes used as well.

 

For some patients (especially chronic cluster headache), unfortunately even these options do not help them and they turn to alternative treatment options. One option that has gained a lot of exposure is the use of tryptamines at sub-hallucinogenic dosing (“microdosing”) including psilocybin (from mushrooms), lysergic acid amide (LSA), and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). In fact, there are also growing published studies suggesting benefits of these types of treatments. There is a group called ClusterBusters where these types of treatments are discussed further. Obviously, there are potential legal ramifications of these treatments since they are all federally illegal substances, but for some patients their cluster headache is so severe and refractory that they will do anything for relief.

 

Getting Help For Your Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches can impact your ability to complete tasks at work and can require you to take more sick leave, as referenced in one study. Cluster headaches can also have an impact on your relationships with family and friends. If you develop cluster headaches your primary care physician might be able to find a viable treatment option or refer you to a headache specialist or neurologist to help you find a solution for your cluster headaches.




IF YOU HAVE HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN AND ARE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS ON ANYTHING RELATED TO IT, A HEADACHE SPECIALIST IS HERE TO HELP, FOR FREE!

FIRST, LET’S DECIDE WHERE TO START:

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION, HOT TOPICS, AND TREATMENT TIPS, VISIT OUR FREE BLOG OF HOT TOPICS AND HEADACHE TIPS HERE. THIS IS WHERE I WRITE AND CONDENSE A BROAD VARIETY OF COMMON AND COMPLEX  MIGRAINE AND HEADACHE RELATED TOPICS INTO THE IMPORTANT FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS YOU NEED TO KNOW, ALONG WITH PROVIDING FIRST HAND CLINICAL EXPERIENCE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HEADACHE SPECIALIST.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR POSSIBLE TYPES OF HEADACHES OR FACIAL PAINS BASED ON YOUR SYMPTOMS, USE THE FREE HEADACHE AND FACIAL PAIN SYMPTOM CHECKER TOOL DEVELOPED BY A HEADACHE SPECIALIST NEUROLOGIST HERE!

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR FURTHER EDUCATION AND SELF-RESEARCH ON YOUR DIAGNOSIS, VISIT OUR FREE EDUCATION CENTER HERE.

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Last updated on October 1st, 2021 at 02:07 pm

SUMMER HEADACHES AND SUMMER MIGRAINES.

@Neuralgroover

The likelihood of a headache increases during the summer months. According to a recent study which surveyed ER visits for headaches, every 9°F rise in temperature increased a person’s short-term risk of a headache by about 7.5% before their emergency room visit. Heat, dehydration, weather changes and barometric pressure changes are the primary drivers of headaches during the summer months, but some lifestyle factors, such as the foods we eat during the summer, can also increase the risk of headaches.




Heat, Headaches, and the Weather

During the summer months, heat can be a contributor to both headaches and migraines. In certain areas of the country where barometric pressures can change suddenly during a storm, people frequently report headaches. This is a common and classic migraine trigger. Sometimes a headache may be caused by heat exhaustion, which has the following associated symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps or tightness
  • Numbness in the face and neck
  • Fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Fast and weak pulse
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Drenching sweat
  • Extreme thirst

For a summer headache that is not related to heat exhaustion, your symptoms may only include a throbbing or dull achy sensation in your head, fatigue, sensitivity to light, and dehydration. If you do have heat exhaustion, it is best to seek medical help because heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

 

Relief for Heat and Weather-Related Headaches

For people prone to headaches and migraines triggered by heat, there are some ways to mitigate them. It might be wise to limit outdoor times on hotter days. Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen can also help. If you need to exercise, try to stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes and plenty of water will also help you stay hydrated. If you already are suffering from a heat-related headache, certain essential oils, cold compresses, iced herbal teas (without caffeine), and NSAIDs can help reduce the intensity of the headache.

 

Exercise and Summer Headaches

Heat and exercise are often a combination of conditions for a headache, but if you choose to exercise, there are certain things that you can do to avoid getting a headache. Generally speaking, it is understood that when a person exercises, the blood vessels within their skull dilate. If you participate in strenuous activities, like rowing, running, weight lifting, or team sports (like baseball, softball, or volleyball), these can contribute to a headache.

Avoiding activities like these in high heat is advisable. However, another way to avoid headaches related to exercise is to develop a set of warm up exercises, which can help prevent headaches. Some good warmup exercises include stretches, followed by some light jogging and walking.




The Importance of Staying hydrated To Prevent Headaches

As a rule of thumb, people have generally learned that you should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. That is about two liters. However, during hot summer days when you are active, you might need to increase that to about 2-½ liters. When you are dehydrated, the brain can shrink and this causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing a headache. When you relieve your dehydration, the brain returns to a normal state, relieving the headache.

 

Pollution, Allergens, and Summer Headaches

During the summer months, there are also other factors, like pollution and allergens, that can lead to headaches. Various air pollutants tend to increase during the summer months due to more people traveling and there being vehicles on the road. Lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matters all increase during the summer months and can cause headaches. Headaches that are related to pollution are often intense, sometimes leading to the point of being disabling, because they are often migraine. Pollution irritates the lungs, eyes, and triggers what is sometimes a very intense headache.

Allergy headaches have unique symptoms. Sometimes a person may experience pain localized over the sinus area and some other facial pain. More intense headaches can be throbbing and one-sided and sometimes are accompanied by nausea, and these are more likely to represent migraine.

Foods and Headaches During the Summer

More people typically barbecue and picnic during the summer months. Certain “summer foods” can trigger headaches. For example, hot dogs can potentially trigger headaches because of nitrites. Nitrites are generally present in some foods in very small quantities, but sensitivity will vary depending upon the person to this chemical. Processed meats like salami and bacon also can contain varying levels of nitrites. In this situation, it is best to substitute processed meats for something like a salad. Even the condiments that you put on your food can trigger headaches. Instead of pickles, you might want to consider swapping them for fresh vegetables on your burger. Avoid aged cheeses and try fresh herbs instead of soy-based condiments. More detailed discussion of migraine triggers can be found here.

 

Sunburn and Headaches

Generally, when we get sunburn, we think nothing of it and it goes away within a few days. However, sunburn can be more severe in certain types of situations. When swimming, sunburn is often more intense if you don’t use sunscreen. Sunburn can happen relatively quickly, within just 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure. Some of the symptoms that you can get with severe sunburn include:

  • Tenderness and blistering of the skin
  • Pain and tingling sensations in the burned area
  • Headaches, fevers and chills
  • Nausea, dizziness, and dehydration.

The type of headache that accompanies a severe sunburn can sometimes feel like exhaustion and will often cover the entire head. To relieve a sunburn headache, cool/cold treatments can often help alleviate the intensity, including cold compresses, a cold shower, and drinking water.

 

Taking Care of Headaches During the Summer

Headaches are more frequent during the late spring and summer months. By drinking plenty of water, staying hydrated, regulating our exposure to sunshine, paying attention to food triggers, and not overexerting ourselves, we can reduce the potential for frequent and intense headaches. However, even with taking these precautions, headaches and migraines will still periodically happen. Thus, it is important to have a good abortive headache treatment such as the gepants (Ubrelvy, Nurtec ODT), Ditans (Reyvow)triptans, or regular over the counter (OTC) pain medicines such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen if they work for you and if you can use them safely. If the headache frequency is high enough (generally more than 4 per month), a preventive headache or migraine treatment should be considered until your high frequency headache cycle subsides.




IF YOU HAVE HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN AND ARE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS ON ANYTHING RELATED TO IT, A HEADACHE SPECIALIST IS HERE TO HELP, FOR FREE!

FIRST, LET’S DECIDE WHERE TO START:

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION, HOT TOPICS, AND TREATMENT TIPS, VISIT OUR FREE BLOG OF HOT TOPICS AND HEADACHE TIPS HERE. THIS IS WHERE I WRITE AND CONDENSE A BROAD VARIETY OF COMMON AND COMPLEX  MIGRAINE AND HEADACHE RELATED TOPICS INTO THE IMPORTANT FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS YOU NEED TO KNOW, ALONG WITH PROVIDING FIRST HAND CLINICAL EXPERIENCE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HEADACHE SPECIALIST.

 

IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR POSSIBLE TYPES OF HEADACHES OR FACIAL PAINS BASED ON YOUR SYMPTOMS, USE THE FREE HEADACHE AND FACIAL PAIN SYMPTOM CHECKER TOOL DEVELOPED BY A HEADACHE SPECIALIST NEUROLOGIST HERE!

 

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR FURTHER EDUCATION AND SELF-RESEARCH ON YOUR DIAGNOSIS, VISIT OUR FREE EDUCATION CENTER HERE.

Read More