Top 75 Migraine and Headache Questions, #52

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  • Full Question:
    Are Migraines and Cluster Headaches one and the same? I have had odd and severe headaches sporadically for 7 years. They always affect the right side of my head, and especially my right eye. It feels like a brain freeze from eating something cold. The main problem is the pressure behind my eye, it feels like bricks stacked on it. My eye turns blood shot, tears, there is swelling, and the lid droops a bit. My right sinus swells almost shut, my head feels foggy, I feel queasy, and exhausted. There appear to be no real triggers. I have had a few ocular migraines, but they have never preceded a headaches. The neurologist I have seen specifically diagnosed me with Atypical Cluster Headaches w/ Ocular Migraines. At my follow-up, she repeatedly referred to my headaches as Migraines.
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    When I asked for clarification She said migraines that cluster. I'm confused. Are they the same? Shannon


    Dear Shannon;

    No, Migraine attacks and cluster headaches are not the same condition.

    The symptoms you describe could be Migraine or cluster headaches; it's impossible for us to tell via the Internet. One major difference is usually how long the "headache" lasts. The headache phase of a Migraine attack usually lasts two to 72 hours. A cluster headache is much shorter and occurs in "clusters," sometimes several on one day even, thus the name.

    As for "ocular" Migraine, there's technically no such diagnosis, and it's also difficult for us to know what your doctor means by that since the term is used differently by different doctors. It sounds like time for a second opinion, perhaps from an actual headache and Migraine specialist.

    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

    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. If you have a question for this section of our site, please click HERE. Accepted questions will be answered by publishing the answers here. No questions will be answered privately.

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Published On: April 08, 2007