Cluster Headaches: Signs and Symptoms

Click on Photo to go to the Cleveland Clinic Website for more information.

Click on Photo to go to the Cleveland Clinic Website for more information.


Cluster headaches are recurring attacks of excruciating, stabbing pain on one side your head, usually behind the eye. Men experience cluster headaches eight times more often than women do. These headaches occur nearly every day or several times a day for weeks or months, and then disappear for several months or even years. Attacks may last from 15 minutes to three hours, and often occur during the night.

There are two kinds of cluster headaches — episodic and chronic. In episodic cluster headaches, there are long, pain-free remissions. In chronic cluster headaches, there are no long remissions. If during the past year or longer, you experience periods of only a week or less of relief between headache attacks, you may be diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches. About 10 percent of cluster headache sufferers have the chronic condition.

Other symptoms usually occur on the side of the head where burning or penetrating pain is felt in or around an eye. Occasionally the pain extends to your forehead, nose, cheek or upper jaw. Other symptoms include:

• Red or teary eyes
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Facial swelling

Cluster headaches usually don’t run in families and don’t appear to be hereditary.