Posted by: luke | 2009-03-17

cluster headaches

Hi Dr Shevel
For 3 weeks I had headaches which would last for most of the day. I consulted a GP who said it could be cluster headaches. I have looked up the symtoms and they are quite similar. I have been given medication but it takes too long to react or the headaches last for 10 mins or 2 hours, so not sure when to take the medication. GP referred me to have a CT scan done. Is this necessary ....

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Our expert says:
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Dear Luke,

Anyone suffering from the kind of headache that you have described must have a proper medical assessment, which should include a neurological examination. A scan is only necessary if the neurological examination indicates that one should be done – otherwise it is a waste of time and money.The reason for the neurological examination is to make absolutely certain that there is not some serious or life threatening underlying medical condition causing the headaches. Although this is uncommon, it is essential to exclude this possibility before doing anything else.

Once this has been done, then the next part of the investigation is started. The correct way to deal with the problem is to have a proper diagnosis of the underlying causes of the headache. If these are treated, the headaches no longer occur, and it is no longer necessary to rely on potentially harmful “rescue” medication.

To get to the root of the problem, you need what is called a “multidisciplinary” assessment. There are many different structures in the head and neck, all of which can be involved in the headache process, and no single specialist can have all the knowledge necessary to make a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis. For this reason, the combined the expertise of different specialists who would normally treat headache patients in isolation, are co-ordinated into a single more comprehensive body of knowledge. This enables a more comprehensive treatment plan, in which all the contributing factors are addressed. This assessment must include examination to determine the presence of tension in the head and neck muscles.

Headache sufferers often have a poor Quality of Life due to the constant pain and associated symptoms. For a free assessment of how your headaches are affecting your Quality of Life, click on

This information has been supplied and checked by the multidisciplinary team of specialists at The Headache Clinic, in association with The International Headache Society and the South African Institute of Headache and Migraine Science. For consultation with these specialists, call The Headache Clinic on 0861 678 911 (Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban).

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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