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Medicines for Cluster Headaches

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

Medicines may stop a cluster headache after it starts and prevent more headaches from occurring. Finding the right medicine can take some time. You may need a combination of medicines to effectively treat your cluster headaches.

Medicines and treatments that stop cluster headaches after they start

Treatments most often used to stop cluster headaches include:

Medicines that prevent cluster headaches during a cluster period

Some medicines that prevent cluster headaches during a cluster period include:

You must take these medicines every day during a cycle of headaches, even on days when you don't get a headache.

What to think about

Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, usually don't relieve the severe pain of cluster headaches.

Experts do not recommend opioid medicines, like oxycodone or hydrocodone, for treating cluster headaches. They can have harmful side effects.

When a cluster headache occurs, it is important to treat it as early as possible with the medicine your doctor has recommended. The sooner you treat the headache, the less painful it may be.

The choice of medicine may depend on the time of day when your headaches tend to occur. Some people may need a combination of two or three medicines. Keeping track of your symptoms can help your doctor determine the proper medicine. You can keep track by using a headache diary .

If you don't get headaches often, you may only need to take medicines after the headaches begin. If you get headaches often, you may need to take medicines daily during a cluster period to prevent a future headache or reduce the number of headaches in a cycle.

If your headaches become more severe and medicines aren't working, let your doctor know. You may need to try a different medicine or a combination of medicines. You may also need to be referred to a hospital or headache clinic for more intensive treatment.


References

Citations

  1. Cohen AS, et al. (2009). High-flow oxygen for treatment of cluster headache: A randomized trial. JAMA, 302(22): 2451–2457.

Credits for Medicines for Cluster Headaches

Current as of: August 4, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Karin M. Lindholm DO - Neurology


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