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They are called cluster headaches because the attacks come in groups. The pain arrives with little, if any, warning, and it has been described as the most severe and intense of any headache type. It generally lasts from 30 to 45 minutes, although it might persist for several hours before it disappears. Unfortunately, it can reoccur later in the day. Most sufferers experience one to four headaches a day during a cluster period.

Cluster headaches frequently surface during the morning or late at night; the cluster cycle can last weeks or months and then can disappear for months or years. Clusters often occur during spring or autumn and, thus, are often incorrectly associated with allergies. Approximately 10 percent of the sufferers, however, experience chronic cluster headaches that occur all year long.

It is estimated that less than one percent of the population are victims of cluster headaches, and they encounter the headache somewhere between the ages of 20 and 45. More men (about five to one) than women suffer from cluster headaches.

Frank Capra, the famous film director and producer, described a cluster headache he had while sitting in a hotel:

"Suddenly a huge phantom bird sank three talons of its angry claws deeply into my head and face and tried to lift me. No warnings, no preliminary signs. Just wham! A massive, killing pain came over my right eye. I clutched my head, stumbled out to the broad lawns and over the hedges to the deserted tennis courts and then, there in the dark, I moaned, I panted. Ballooned my cheeks, blew out short bursts of air, licked my hot lips, wiped tears that poured out of my right eye, and clawed at my head trying to uproot the fiendish talons from their iron grip. One racking hour later the talons let go. The paroxysm eased as suddenly as it had convulsed. Euphoria set in. It's gone! Whopping headache, but it's gone!..."

Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title
(New York: Macmillan, 1971)

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