Cluster Headaches: Conditions With Similar Symptoms

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Topic Overview

In general, headaches have many causes, including tension or changes to blood vessels (vascular changes). But only a few other conditions have symptoms that are similar to cluster headaches , such as:

  • Migraine headaches , which cause one-sided pain in the head, face, and neck. But while migraine pain starts on one side of the head, it may spread to the entire head—something a cluster headache does not do. Also, migraine auras , such as seeing bright lights or wavy lines prior to getting the headache, do not usually occur in cluster headaches. Cluster headaches usually appear suddenly without warning.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia , which causes sudden, one-sided, intense facial pain. This pain usually lasts for only a few seconds to a couple of minutes but can also be a long-term problem.
  • Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH), which also causes short headache attacks, but mostly in women. Unlike cluster headaches, CPH responds well to a medicine called indomethacin, which can help the doctor tell the difference between CPH and cluster headaches.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine

Specialist Medical Reviewer Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015