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Migraines and Cluster Headaches

Migraines and cluster headaches cause intense, throbbing pain on 1 side of the head. With a migraine, you may have nausea and vomiting and be sensitive to light and sound. You may also have warning signs, such as flashing lights or loss of parts of your vision, before the pain starts. Cluster headaches recur in groups for days, weeks, or months. The pain is centered around or behind 1 eye. The eye may also become red or teary, or the eyelid may droop. Migraines and cluster headaches can have many causes.

Man holding hand to forehead, looking distressed.

To help prevent migraines and cluster headaches

Try the following steps:

  • Avoid aged cheeses, nuts, beans, chocolate, red wine, or foods that contain caffeine, nitrates, and MSG.

  • Try not to skip meals.

  • Don’t work in poor lighting.

  • Reduce stress as much as you can.

  • Get plenty of sleep each night.

  • Exercise regularly under your doctor’s guidance.

To relieve the pain

Try these suggestions:

  • Stay quiet and rest.

  • Use cold to numb the pain. Wrap ice or a cold can of soda in a cloth. Hold it against the site of pain for 10 minutes. Repeat every 20 minutes.

  • Avoid light. Wear dark glasses, turn out lights, and close the curtains. When outdoors, wear a brimmed hat.

  • Drink lots of fluids. Sip caffeine-free flat soda to help relieve nausea.

  • See your doctor if you get migraines or cluster headaches often. There are effective medications to help treat them.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/27/2013
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