Cluster headaches or Migraines, alcohol a trigger only sometimes?

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  • Full Question:

    I have been suffering for about 4-5 years from what the Dr. calls "seasonal" or "cluster" headaches or migraines. I get them around the same time every year. They last about 5-8 weeks. I get about 4 a day and they last about an hour each. I notice that on nights when I have alcoholic beverages, the next day, I do not have any migraines. Why would that be?


    In the beginning of the 5-8 weeks, alcohol does not trigger a migraine, but at the end it tends to. But I still do not get migraines the next day. Also, I take topiramate (generic for topamax) to prevent them. Beginning to question if its doing anything or if I would get the migraines those 5-8 weeks no matter what, and not have to take meds otherwise.

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    Thank you, Brad.


    Full Answer:

    Dear Brad;


    It's time to get a definitive diagnosis, even if that means going to a new doctor. There's a huge difference between cluster headaches and Migraines and how they're treated. Headaches four times a day, lasting an hour, in a five- to eight-week cycle is far more indicative of cluster headaches than Migraines.


    If your doctor isn’t able to help, it may well be time to consult a Migraine and headache specialist. It’s important to note that neurologists aren’t necessarily Migraine and headache specialists. Take a look at the article Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special? If you need help finding a Migraine specialist, check our listing of Patient Recommended Migraine and Headache Specialists.


    As for alcohol triggering sometimes, but not others, triggers can be that way. It may be that without realizing it, you're encountering other triggers on the days that you see alcohol as a trigger, and that alcohol alone isn't a strong enough trigger to bring on an attack.


    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert



    If you need help finding a  Migraine and headache specialist,
     visit our listing of Patient Recommended Specialists.



    About Ask the Clinician:

    Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and  Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and  Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.


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    Last updated March 26, 2013.

Published On: March 26, 2013