Cluster headaches are rare, affecting less than 1% of the population.
Age and Gender
Cluster headaches can affect all ages, from children to the elderly, but are most common from young adulthood through middle age. Men are 2 - 3 times more likely to have cluster headaches than women, with the peak age of onset occurring during their 40s. In women, age of onset tends to be in the 60s.
Unlike with migraines, fluctuations in estrogen and other female hormones do not appear to influence the onset of attacks in women.
Lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol abuse, and stress (in particular stressful work situations), appear to play a very strong role in cluster headaches. Smoking can trigger attacks. (However, quitting smoking generally does not have an effect on the disease course.) Alcohol, most commonly red wine, may trigger an attack.
Family History and Genetic Factors
Cluster headaches tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component may be involved in some cases.
History of Migraine
Review Date: 09/29/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.