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Cluster Headaches: Conditions With Similar Symptoms - 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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