Cluster Headache Treatment
Treating an Acute AttackThe sudden start and brief duration of cluster headaches can make them difficult to treat once the headache has started; however, research scientists have identified several effective medications for cluster headache treatment that can decrease the pain, severity, and duration of an attack. These medications include:
- Sumatriptan (Imitrex® injection)
- Dihydroergotamine (DHE 45®, Migranal®)
- Nasal lidocaine
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa®).
To be effective, these medicines must be taken at the first sign of an attack. Research has also shown that injectable or nasal sprays are most effective because they get into the body faster than tablets.
Imitrex Injection is a medication licensed for the treatment of cluster headaches. Clinical studies showed that if taken within 10 minutes of cluster headache onset, up to 75 percent of people had little or no pain 15 minutes later.
Imitrex appears to be most effective in people who have one or two cluster headaches per day. The nasal and tablet forms of Imitrex are not as effective in treating cluster headaches. You should talk with your healthcare provider before using Imitrex if you have heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), or vascular disease (see Imitrex Warnings and Precautions).
Dihydroergotamine (DHE 45, Migranal)
Dihydroergotamine, either as an injection or nasal spray, is sometimes used to treat cluster headaches. Treatment can be every hour as needed, up to 3 mg per day.
Another cluster headache treatment that works for some cluster headaches is rapid inhalation of pure oxygen through a mask for 5 to 15 minutes. The oxygen seems to ease the pain of cluster headache by reducing blood flow to the brain. Up to 70 percent of people experience relief within five minutes.