Friday, November 10, 2006

Caregiving: Cluster Headaches - my Achilles Heel


My pain feels like a hot corkscrew suddenly jabbed into my right eye slowly twisting deeper into my brain and then back out over 20 minutes to an hour. Sleeping, working, or driving it doesn’t matter; the attack is always without warning and debilitating. 


Pain levels build to where if there is a merciful god I loose consciousness, mostly there is no god just writhing pain.


In the calm that follows I try to recapture the pieces of my sanity.


Such is a day in my life with Cluster Headaches. During the worst of episodes I may experience 2-3 attacks in a day. Until this week I lived 14 months of freedom from Cluster Headaches.


My Cluster Headaches and Patti’s Multiple Sclerosis have a shared historical timetable. They have been my Achilles Heel as a caregiver. Dr. C Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General claimed “cluster headache patients tended to have more stressful jobs and be self-employed.”


National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London describes cluster headaches “as one of the most severe pain syndromes suffered by human beings.” “Far worse” than childbirth or migraines in studies of persons who have experienced all.


Some medications and some treatments help some sufferers take the edge off the pain of some attacks. Somehow you endure. 


People try to remain awake for as long as possible to forestall the onset of a headache they know is coming.” the Mayo Clinic reports, “In the worst cases, a vicious cycle of head pain and sleep deprivation develops." ... My cycles last several weeks to a couple months, and the most frequent time for attacks is shortly after I surrender to sleep.


With an almost conspiratorial dark sense of humor medical studies report a consistent conclusion – “Cluster headaches are, fortunately, rare, affecting less than 1% of the population.”

… It’s sooo reassuring to know you’re special. <grin>


Cluster headache inspired artwork is by Bob Pahlow and JD Fletcher.


  1. Great artwork... It really is an excellant form of pain explaination! I hope this is the only one you experience for a long, long time!!  

  2. God bless you, my friend.  I have migraines but they do not hold a candle to cluster headaches.  An old friend of mine suffers from cluster headaches and I could just see the pain and misery in his eyes.  

    Hugs, my friend


  3. try and feel better, i do hope th cluster headaches go away


  4. ((( gentle hugs ))) Rache

  5. Oh this looks so painful.  My mother used to get blurry vision then horrible sick headaches that put her to bed, but in later years, she was able to control her environment much better, and she did not have these awful sick headaches.  I hardly ever had a headache in my life, but I inherited a tendency to a blurry vision symptom when I got too stressed.  I always knew that was a sign to let up and get some rest.  I came to visit your journal as one of Bam's 6 pics. I do like Bam!   Gerry

  6. Patrick,
    I hope you have survived the worst part this time and will soon be feeling like your usual wonderful self. Take care of yourself. I am wishing you the best.

  7. ACKKKKKK they are BAACKKK!!    Seems to be this time of year with the holiday madness approaching for you once again. i am glad to know you were spared last year at least a bit but SO sorry to hear the headaches are back.
    take good care if there is ever respite for the caregiver?! . from one of your former MS online  caregiving buddies now living life  sans caregiving and cherishing it.

  8. I get these headaches from time to time, that can last several days. There seems to be a focus around and behind one eye. When I get them, sometimes OC meds help, and other times not. They are worse at night... keeping me awake. And if I do slumber momentarily, all through the night I wake up to the same throb around the eye, or eyes. I haven't been diagnosed with cluster headaches. How can I know if they are, or not? When it is at its worst, I can hardly keep my eyes open, they water, and light is the enemy. I'm sure that tonight I will be investigating cluster vs migraine headaches on the internet. I can feel the pain represented in the graphic. I hope this cluster leaves you soon. Bea


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