Classifying Cluster Headache
There are dozens of headache disorders, but they break down into three classification groups: Tension-Type, Migraine, and Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgia (TAC). Cluster headaches are the most commn of the TACs, and they are estimated to affect .1 percent of the population (a similar percentage to multiple sclerosis).
Most Headache Disorders share some common symptoms, which is part of what makes diagnosis so complex. However, the following diagnostic criteria are specific to Cluster Headache and can make it much easier to identify patients who are experiencing this particular type of disorder:
- Red or tearing eye
- Nasal congestion or running nose
- Swollen eyelid (oedema)
- Forehead and facial sweating or flushing
- Ear fullness (which seems to be more prevalent in women with cluster headache)
- Drooping upper eyelid
- Pupil constriction
A Cluster Headache diagnosis requires one to have at least five attacks that meet the criteria listed above, which is not better described by another headache disorder. For decades, it was thought that mainly, if not only, men have cluster headaches, but we now know women and children as young as eight can have cluster. The male-to-female ratio seems to be 2:1 but varies in each research study. There’s also a “probable cluster headache” diagnosis for those who fit all but one of the criteria.