Cluster Headaches

What Causes Cluster Headaches?

Cluster headaches can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'life-threatening'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose cluster headaches, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "cluster headaches" as a symptom.  Here are eight possibilities:
  • Low Melatonin
  • Low DHEA
  • Low Testosterone
  • Low Pregnenolone
  • Low Female Testosterone
  • Drug Side-Effects
  • Alcohol Consequences
  • Cigarette Smoke Damage

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
having elevated melatonin levels
regular episodes of diarrhea
smoking over a pack a day
recently quitting smoking
occasionally feeling unusually cold
mood swings during menstrual cycle
having low melatonin levels
a high-stress lifestyle
major joint pain/swelling/stiffness
blue/bluish fingernails
secondhand smoke exposure
basal cell skin cancer
... and more than 50 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of cluster headaches:
Cause Probability Status
Low DHEA 95% Confirm
Drug Side-Effects 28% Unlikely
Low Melatonin 19% Unlikely
Low Pregnenolone 1% Ruled out
Low Testosterone 0% Ruled out
Cigarette Smoke Damage 0% Ruled out
Low Female Testosterone 0% Ruled out
Alcohol Consequences 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate chronic headaches, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Do you get Cluster Headaches? Attacks last 15 minutes to 3 hours; severe pain starts around one eye and may radiate into the temple, jaw, nose, teeth, or chin. 'Clusters' of up to several per day occur for 1-16 weeks, then not for months or years.
Possible responses:
→ Never had one / don't know
→ Probably had one/minor episode(s) now resolved
→ Major episode(s) now resolved
→ Current minor problem
→ Current major problem
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either history of cluster headaches or cluster headaches, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
(Prescription) Drug Side-Effects

It is believed that there may be a link between cluster headaches and some medications such as nitroglycerin (used to treat heart disease.)

Alcohol-related Problems

Many sufferers report that alcohol is an important trigger during a cluster period, but not during remission periods.

Cigarette Smoke Damage

The majority of male sufferers are smokers.

Low DHEA Level

Those suffering from cluster headaches often have DHEA sulfate levels that are below normal.

Low Female Testosterone Level

Several studies have found that sufferers of cluster and migraine headaches tend to have subnormal levels of total testosterone, DHEA sulfate, and pregnenolone.

Low Male Testosterone Level

Several studies have found that sufferers of cluster and migraine headaches tend to have subnormal levels of total testosterone, DHEA sulfate, and pregnenolone.

Low Melatonin Level

Low levels of melatonin have been linked to cluster headaches, and melatonin supplements reduce cluster headaches in some patients.

Low Pregnenolone Level

Those suffering from cluster headaches often have pregnenolone levels that are below normal.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
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