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05 Dec 2005

differnce between cluster, hormonal and migraine
I suffer what what I think is an hormonal migraine as I usually get the worst headaches on or just before my period. My head feels heavy and almost as if it is filled with water or lead. I cannot tolerate noise or light and not at all hungry. Also I find that when I am rushed and don't eat for the day, I experience the same syptoms. So am I correct in assuming that this is an hormonal migraine?
Also, what is the difference betw a cluster headache and a migraine and is anyone prone to them?
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Headache expert
Headache expert

01 Jan 0001

Dear Carrie
The symptoms of cluster headache are different to migraine, in that the pain is far more intense in cluster, the eyes water, the nose runs,the eye may droop. Clusters usually only last up to a half hour, while migraines may last for 3 days, and be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and sound sensitivity. Clusters occur in clusters – in other words, one can go for months or years without a headache, and then all of a sudden they come on, and you can have as many as 8 attacks a day. There are other differences, but these are the main ones.

You do not have a pure menstrual migraine, as you get the pain from other stimuli as well. The menstrual cycle, stress, and not eating, are all triggering off the pain. But remember, they are just triggers, triggering some underlying condition. If one identifies and treats the underlying problem, then these triggers will no longer trigger off the pain.

To get to the root of the problem, you need what is called a “multidisciplinary assessment”. There are so many different structures in the head and neck, all of which can be involved in the headache process, that no single specialist can have all the knowledge necessary to make a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis. For instance, a neurologist will examine the brain and nervous system, a physiotherapist will look at the muscles, a dentist will examine the teeth etc. For this reason, the “multidisciplinary assessment” combines and integrates the expertise of different specialists who would normally treat headache patients in isolation, into a single more comprehensive body of knowledge. This enables the different members of the team to provide a co-ordinated treatment plan, so that all the contributing factors are addressed.

This information has been supplied and checked by the multidisciplinary team of specialists at The Headache Clinic, in association with The International Headache Society and the South African Institute of Headache and Migraine Science. For consultation with these specialists, call The Headache Clinic (Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg) on 0861 678 911.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.