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Is Summer Giving You a Headache?

Laura C. Miller, MD is a board-certified neurologist. She is the co-director of the Inova Headache Program.

The change in season and rising temperatures can be difficult for many people who dislike hot temperatures, but summer can also be a trigger for individuals who suffer from cluster headaches – short, severe headaches that recur several times a day for months or weeks at a time. People who suffer from cluster headaches tend to get them at the same time each year, and summer can spark an attack.

Symptoms of cluster headaches include:

  • Sudden, intense pain in or around one eye on one side of your face
  • Feelings of throbbing, burning or piercing
  • Red or teary eyes
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Flushing or sweating face
  • Restlessness

Cluster headaches affect people of all ages, and they typically last between 15 minutes and a few hours. Their cause is unknown, but their cyclical nature may be linked to changes in your body’s internal clock. If you suffer from cluster headaches, try these prevention tips:

Tips to Help Avoid Cluster Headaches

  • Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Avoid exercising in hot weather
  • Maintain a regular body temperature
  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern
  • Try keeping a diary to track your triggers

Currently, there is no cure for cluster headaches, but certain therapies can reduce their frequency and severity. There is no one treatment that works for everyone, so you may have to try different remedies to find the one that works for you. Treatment options include: prescription steroids, preventive medication, oxygen inhalation therapy and biofeedback.

New treatments also are being investigated, including deep brain stimulation and occipital nerve stimulation.

Because cluster headaches do not occur as often as other types of headaches, they are easily misdiagnosed – they are often mistaken for migraines or allergies. Proper diagnosis is essential to finding a treatment option that works for you.

To request an appointment with one of Inova’s headache specialists, call 703-454-5644.

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