Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation is a fairly new treatment that uses low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate a nerve in the neck.
The aim is to relieve pain and reduce the number of cluster headaches.
You place a small handheld device on the side of your neck. Your specialist will show you exactly where.
Gradually increase the strength of the electrical current until you can feel small muscle contractions under your skin. Hold the device in position for about 90 seconds.
TVNS can be used to treat cluster headaches when you get them, and can also be used between attacks to try to prevent them happening. But TVNS may not help everyone with cluster headaches.
For more information, read the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance about transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation.
There’s also a new portable TVNS device called gammaCore. NICE has said that gammaCore can be effective for some people and reduce the need for medicines.
What Triggers Cluster Headaches
If you experience cluster headaches, you likely know the triggers. These are things that can start headaches or otherwise affect them.
There are two ways to look at triggers:
- Triggers that start a new cycle of headaches: Most people go months or years between cluster headache periods. When headaches start again, the shift often appears tied to changes in seasons. It may happen because of suspected ties between cluster headaches and the hypothalamus. This part of your brain contains your circadian clock, a built-in schedule that responds to sunlight.
- Triggers that affect headaches during a cycle: During headache periods, the blood vessels in your brain change. These changes make you more sensitive to alcohol and nicotine. Drinking just a little alcohol can bring on a headache. Smoking can also make headaches feel worse or trigger a headache.
What Are Cluster Headache Symptoms
Cluster headaches tend to have very recognizable symptoms. When symptoms set in, it usually only takes 5 to 10 minutes for them to reach their worst. Common symptoms include one sided head pain and other symptoms involving the eye, nose and skin on the same side as the pain.
Pain from cluster headaches
Pain from cluster headaches has a few notable features:
- Often described as a burning or piercing feeling.
- Lasts 15 minutes to 3 hours at a time.
- Typically felt on the same side of the head in the current cycle rarely may switch in the future.
- Always centered behind one eye but can spread over the affected sides forehead, temple, nose and gums.
- Can make you feel like you cant sit still and need to pace, unlike the relief lying down provides for migraines.
Other cluster headache symptoms
Cluster headaches may also cause:
- Congestion: Your nose may run or become stuffy only on the side of the headache
- Eye problems: You may experience a drooping eyelid, eye pain or a watering eye. Your pupil may also look smaller. These symptoms appear on the same side of the head as headache pain.
- Face changes: You may start sweating and your face may become flushed on the side of the headache.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Cluster Headaches
Each attack occurs suddenly, often without any warning. Pain is typically in or around one eye or temple, and may spread to other regions on the same side of the head.
Episodes of cluster headaches often involve eye watering , nasal congestion or runny nose, a bloodshot eye , swelling around the eye, a droopy eye, constricted pupil, and facial sweating.
As suggested by their name, cluster headaches typically occur in clusters over several days or weeks, and then disappear for a variable period of time. Each attack usually lasts 45-90 minutes. Attacks may occur from once every couple of days, up to eight times per day. They usually occur at the same time of the day, and patients frequently say they could set their clock by the onset of the headache. It is quite common for a cluster to last 1-3 months once every year or two, and for them to occur at about the same time of the year.
How Are Headaches Diagnosed In A Child
The healthcare provider will ask about your childs symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your familys health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. The physical exam may include a neurological exam.
Your child may be asked questions, such as:
When do headaches happen?
How long does the pain last?
Do changes in position such as sitting up cause the headache?
You may be asked questions about your child, such as:
Does your child have changes in walking?
Does your child have changes in behavior or personality?
Is your child having trouble sleeping?
Does your child have a history of emotional stress?
Is there a history of injury to your child’s head or face?
If a more serious condition is suspected ,your child may also have tests, such as:
MRI. This test uses large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of organs and tissues in the body.
CT scan. This test uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than standard X-rays.
Spinal tap . This test measures cerebrospinal fluid pressure. It may also be used to check for an infection in the CSF.
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When Should I Call An Ambulance
Most headaches are not serious. But headaches can also be a sign of a serious illness, such as a stroke or meningitis.
- it comes on suddenly, is very severe, or has made you lose consciousness
- you have suffered a head injury
- you have trouble seeing, walking or speaking
- your arms or legs feel numb
- you have nausea or vomiting
- you have a high fever
- you are sensitive to light and have a new rash
Headache Behind The Eye Treatment
Learning to avoid your triggers may prevent headaches or make them less painful. If you do get one, there are many kinds of treatments.
Medication for headache behind the eye
Over-the-counter pain medicine can ease occasional headaches. It may even help with migraines if you take it early enough. Doctors often recommend acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen . But remember that taking them too often can trigger overuse headaches.
If you get frequent tension headaches, your doctor may prescribe medication. Antidepressants like amitriptyline help many people.
Sometimes, prescription drugs are the only things that will ease migraine pain. Some of the most common are triptans such as almotriptan , eletriptan , rizatriptan , sumatriptan , and zolmitriptan . They help most people within 2 hours if taken early enough. People who get chronic migraines often take medicine like beta-blockers or antidepressants every day to help cut back on how many they have.
Breathing pure oxygen may bring relief of cluster headaches. Injected triptans like sumatriptan and lidocaine nose drops might also help. Some people take medicines such as verapamil or prednisone to prevent attacks.
Treat a sinus headache by clearing up the infection. Your doctor might suggest antibiotics and .
Home remedies for headache behind the eye
Caffeine or ice packs may help with migraine pain.
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When Should I See A Doctor For A Cluster Headache
If you suspect you have cluster headaches, reach out to a neurologist or headache specialist to confirm the diagnosis and to exclude other causes that may mimic headache. You do not have to be in the midst of a cluster to be seen by a specialist to be diagnosed.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Everyone gets headaches from time to time, for various reasons. But cluster headaches are no ordinary headaches. If you experience severe headaches in a pattern, talk to your healthcare provider. You could have cluster headaches and can get treatment for this painful condition.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/04/2021.
- Weaver-Agostoni J. Cluster Headache. Am Fam Physician 2013 88:122-128. Accessed 2/1/2021.
- American Migraine Foundation. Understanding Cluster Headache. Accessed 2/1/2021.
- Kandel SA, Mandiga P. Cluster Headache. . In: StatPearls . Treasure Island : StatPearls Publishing 2020 Jan-. Accessed 2/1/2021.
- National Organization of Rare Disorders. Cluster Headache. Accessed 2/1/2021.
- Wei DY, Yuan Ong JJ, Goadsby PJ. Cluster Headache: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Clinical Features, and Diagnosis. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2018 21:S3-S8. Accessed 2/1/2021.
Why Are They Called Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches get their name from how they affect you. They come on in clusters, or groups, before temporarily going away for most people.
Each headache tends to last 30 to 45 minutes, though some are shorter and some longer. You may experience up to eight of these headaches within 24 hours. And this may happen for weeks or several months.
Then the clusters usually pause, for reasons that arent yet understood. The headaches go into remission for months or years before returning. Some people never get much of a break, though. They experience chronic cluster headaches. This happens to about one in five people who get cluster headaches.
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What Are The Treatment Options For Cluster Headache
Some of the treatment options can provide immediate relief when you are having a cluster headache. These are used just while you have the symptoms. Other treatments help to stop a cluster of headaches from starting.
- Immediate relief: high flow oxygen therapy is considered to be safe and effective for stopping a cluster headache from getting worse. If you do not respond to high flow oxygen, another option is subcutaneous sumatriptan injections. Oral triptans usually do not work for cluster headache.
- Preventive medications: You may need to go on preventive medications for the duration of the cluster bout. Then these medications can be weaned off when you are out of the cluster bout. Common preventive medicines used are verapamil, a short course of oral steroids, and topiramate.
- Preventive treatment: A greater occipital nerve block may be done. This is where a pain-killer and steroid mixture is injected into the scalp at the base of the nerve. Some people find this can relieve the pain for up to several months.
What Makes Migraine Different
Before we cover some of the many types of headaches out there, letâs talk about what a migraine attack is. The most well-known migraine symptom is a pounding, severe headache, usually starting on the left side of your head. Some other types of headaches also start on the left side, and migraine pain wonât always start there, so how can you know for sure when youâre dealing with an attack?
Well, migraine symptoms typically follow a unique pattern. The scientific term for the period before the headache sets in is the âprodrome. â It can last for a few hours, or even up to a few days. During this period, itâs common to experience symptoms like:
- difficulty concentrating, speaking, or reading
Some migraine sufferers also have an aura within the hour before their headache. The aura can include:
- visual disturbances, like flashing lights, blind spots, or geometric shapes
- sensory disturbances, like numbness or pins and needles sensations
- brainstem-related symptoms, such as vertigo, difficulty speaking, or ringing ears
- retinal symptomsâusually temporary partial or total blindness in just one eye
Once the headache strikes, the pain can last 4-72 hours and be debilitating.
Afterward, many people will be stuck recovering from a âmigraine hangover,â or, to get scientific, a âpostdrome.â The hangover can last several days and leave you nauseous, moody, thirsty or craving certain foods, unable to concentrate, and sensitive to lights and sounds.
Letâs take a look…
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Other Causes Of Headaches In Your Left Temple
In rare cases, persistent chronic headaches that cause throbbing headaches can be an indicator of a more serious condition.
Stroke. Strokes cause weakness on one side of your body along with vision problems and speech problems. On rare occasions, a stroke can cause a severe migraine that may affect just one side of your head.21 Please read my article on the early signs of a stroke for more information.
Brain tumor. Doctors say that most headaches are not caused by brain tumors. However, if you have constant headaches that dont respond to rest or painkillers, you should speak to your doctor. Other symptoms of a brain tumor include seizures, balance problems, headaches with blurry vision, personality changes, or changes in speech or hearing.22
Nummular headaches. A headache that causes continual pain in a small area of your head could be a nummular headache, or a coin-shaped headache. The pain can be intense and last for around 2 hours. However, there are usually no associated symptoms with nummular headaches. These types of headaches are rarely serious.23
What Causes A Headache Behind The Eyes
A headache behind your eyes can have multiple causes, and it may take some trial and error before you understand what triggers it. To identify the source of your headache pain, you should first consider the type of pain you have.
- Migraine: A migraine headache usually comes with extreme pain behind your eyes. If you suffer from migraines, your triggers may look different than those of someone else who also gets migraines. For many people, migraines accompany stress or anxiety, hormone changes, poor posture or diet, medication, and even environmental stimuli. They often come with nausea, weakness, tension in the head, and mood changes.
- Tension headache: You might notice tension headaches after a long day of driving, looking at a screen, or anything that requires continuous, close focus. Many people notice these types of headaches on days with cold temperatures, and they can come with head or neck muscle contractions.
- Cluster headache: Cluster headaches occur in cycles, and men experience them more than women do. While they are common, doctors do not know what causes them, other than possible genetic factors. Many people who have them experience severe pain.
- Sinus headache: This type of headache appears most often during allergy seasons or at other times when you experience an allergy flare-up. Its symptoms mirror many of those that come with migraines and cluster headaches, which leads many people to mistake those types of headaches for sinus headaches.
- Illness or infection
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What Are The Symptoms Of Headaches Behind The Eyes
The symptoms that accompany headaches behind your eyes vary with the kind of headache you experience. Likewise, while you may have a migraine or tension headache, your symptoms will vary.
Similar types of pain often occur with several different kinds of headaches, which makes it challenging for doctors to diagnose them without information about your lifestyle. To identify which headaches you experience, look for specific symptoms associated with each one.
Migraines go beyond the pain in your head and may come with sensitivity to light or sound, nausea, weakness, mood changes, and even an aura before the headache begins. These headaches usually occur only on one side of the head.
Tension headaches can happen once or for several months, at which point your doctor will diagnose them as chronic headaches. Aside from pain behind your eyes, you may experience head tension, head tenderness, and forehead pressure.
Cluster headaches, like migraines, occur on one side of the head and create extreme pain. You might also feel sweaty or flushed, have teary or red eyes, and feel congested or have a runny nostril.
Sinus headaches can trigger pain anywhere your sinuses reach, including your eyes, nose, cheeks, forehead, and teeth. These headaches often accompany allergy symptoms like congestion, nasal discharge, and even fever. With sinus pain, you may notice the pain worsening over the course of the day.
Headache Behind Left Eye: 13 Causes With Treatments
A headache behind the left eye is not a rare condition. The pain can interfere with your work, home duties, and other daily activities. It can be located in the eye, behind the eye, or in the head. This miserable pain may range from mild or dull to a throbbing and sharp stabbing. You may also experience nausea, flashing lights, or sensitivity to light. This pain will make it hard for you to concentrate or fall asleep.
The common causes of a headache behind the left eye are a cluster headache, tension headache, eyestrain, and migraine. However, there are also other causes of why this condition occurs. Knowing the exact cause of a headache can help you deal with it properly.
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How Do You Prevent Headaches Behind The Eyes
Headaches can be caused by a variety of triggers that may vary among individuals. Keeping a symptom diary with detailed records of when your headaches occur may help you understand your headache triggers so that you can avoid them.
Experts getting daily aerobic exercise, reducing stress, having a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.
Why Do Some People Call Them Suicide Headaches
Some people call cluster headaches suicide headaches. This name came from people taking their lives when experiencing a cluster headache or anticipating one. Unfortunately, some people feel like they have no hope with cluster headaches. But healthcare providers can help you with these headaches.
Learn more about recognizing suicidal behavior or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255.
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What Causes Headache Above Left Eye
There are various types of headaches, and lots of factors might cause them. Headache above left eye, for example, may be due to an issue with the nerves or capillary in the area, or it can be a sign of infection. Headaches might come and go, however if your symptoms continues or worsens, call your doctor for appropriate assessment and treatment.
Key Points About Cluster Headaches
- Cluster headaches occur in groups, or clusters, and each attack lasts about 1 to 3 hours on average.
- The frequency of occurrence may range from every other day to multiple times a day.
- Cluster periods are followed by remissions that may last months or years.
- Relative to other types of primary headaches, cluster headaches are rare.
- The pain they produce is severe and they tend to recur in the same way each time
- Identifying headache triggers may help prevent their occurrence.
- A true cluster headache is not life threatening and does not cause permanent brain damage. But, they tend to be chronic, recurrent, and can interfere with your lifestyle or work.
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