Cluster Headache Treatment Poses Cardiac Dangers

Cluster headache, also called suicide headache because of its severity or alarm clock headache because of its timing, is a rare condition occurring in about 0.1 per cent of the population and more commonly in men.

People who get cluster headaches and migraines say the pain of cluster headaches is much stronger and has a distinctly different quality.

Cluster headaches occur as severe attacks and one sided headaches. The attacks develop suddenly and without warning. Number of attacks occurs over several weeks. The pain can be mainly around one eye or temple. The pain can also spread on the same side of the head to the other areas.

The attack can last up to 15 to 180 minutes and commonly it can last up to 45 to 90 minutes. The pain during the attack can be severe and the person becomes restless, agitated and unable to lie down. Attacks often occur at night making the person to wake up in the middle of the sleep.

The symptoms that occur during the attack are redness of eyes, water from eyes, runny nose, sweating of face, eyelid drooping, swelling of eyelids, and pupil constriction in the eye.

Verapamil is a calcium channel blocker which is effective in cluster headache and migraines. Verapamil is used with lithium or cortisone or used as single preventive. It is a smooth muscle relaxant with vasodilatory properties as well as a depressant of myocardial contractility.

Taking verapamil can be started early in the cluster cycle and if headaches are severe, cortisone should be used with verapamil. Verapamil relaxes blood vessels which makes it easy for the heart to pump and reduce its workload. It is also used to treat high blood pressure, angina, and control irregular heartbeats.

Before taking this medicine, the person should tell the health care professional if he has kidney or liver disease, sinus syndrome, heart failure, coronary artery disease, low blood pressure and muscular dystrophy.

Constipation, insomnia, dizziness and anxiety are common with verapamil. The other side effects include shortness of breath, jaundice, and swelling of legs and ankles. The other less serious side effects are hair loss, increased urination and vivid dreams.

“The benefit of taking verapamil to alleviate the devastating pain of cluster headaches has to be balanced against the risk of causing a heart abnormality that could progress into a more serious problem.”

Known side effects of taking verapamil are atrioventricular block and bradycardia, both conditions that are symptomatic of something going wrong with the electrical system of the heart that controls the heart beat.