Migraine headaches are very severe headaches that tend to occur on one side of the head and are often accompanied by symptoms like nausea, extreme sensitivity to light or sound, or visual issues like tunnel vision or blurry “spots.” Although the precise cause of migraines is not known, studies have found people with a family history of migraines are more likely to have the headaches themselves, and they can also be triggered by factors like alcohol, stress or hormonal fluctuations.
Cluster headaches are severe headaches that tend to occur in groups or “clusters” over a period of days, weeks or even months, separated by periods of time when no headaches occur. Some people who have cluster headaches experience them around the same time each day during an “outbreak” or flare-up. The cause of cluster headaches hasn’t been identified, but some researchers believe they may be related to hormonal fluctuations or to issues concerning the body’s internal “clock” that’s controlled by the hypothalamus gland located in the brain.
Having an accurate diagnosis for headaches is essential for ensuring the most appropriate care is provided in order to achieve relief of pain and related symptoms. Diagnosis begins with a detailed patient medical history and a review of the symptoms to help differentiate among different types of headaches, including migraine headaches, cluster headaches, tension headaches and other types of headaches. A physical exam will also be performed, and some patients may be asked to keep a diary or log of their symptoms. Additional testing including blood tests, CT scans, x-rays and MRIs may be ordered to rule out other conditions that can cause head pain and to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for chronic headaches depends on the type of headache and its underlying cause. Some headaches can be treated or even prevented with medication or with BOTOX injections to interrupt nerve signaling that may be cause or contributing to symptoms. Lifestyle changes may also be helpful. At New York Neurology Associates, each treatment plan is customized to suit the patient’s individual needs.