Cluster headache is a highly disabling neurological condition characterized by intense stabbing pain in the area of one eye, often accompanied by swelling, tears and nasal congestion. Sufferers can have cluster attacks multiple times per day, each lasting 15 to 180 minutes.1 The pain caused by cluster attacks is recognized as among the most severe known to humans.2
It is estimated that over 600,000 people across Europe suffer from cluster headaches (approximately 1.2 in 1000 people, similar to the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis).3,4 The socioeconomic burden of cluster headache on the individual and society is high due to direct costs of healthcare services and indirect costs of lost work days and decreased work efficacy. A Danish report showed that 43.5% of cluster patients had seen specialists, approximately 30% had missed work, and 78% reported restrictions in daily living.5 A recent German study showed that a single chronic cluster headache patient could cost the healthcare system more than €21,000 per year.6
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2 Holland, P.R. & Goadsby, P.J. Cluster headache, hypothalamus, and orexin. Curr Pain Headache Rep 2009; 13:147-54.
3 Fischera M et al. The incidence and prevalence of cluster headache: a meta-analysis of population-based studies. Cephalalgia. 2008 Jun;28(6):614-8 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18422717
4 European population statistics 2012.
5 Jensen et al.. Epidemiology and comorbidity of headache. Lancet Neurol 2008; 7: 354–61,
6 Gaul, et al.,Treatment costs and indirect costs of cluster headache: A health economics analysis. Cephalalgia published online 12 Oct 2011.
Cluster headache is often called 'suicide headache'.