At What Age Do Cluster Headaches Start?

At What Age Do Cluster Headaches Start?

While cluster headaches typically start between in the ages of 20 to 40 years of age, they can start at any age, unfortunately.1

The attack came on suddenly, he says, describing the pain like a “huge phantom bird sank three talons of its angry claws deeply into my head and face and tried to life me. No preliminary signs. Just wham! A massive, killing pain came over my right away.”

Former Washington Redskins’ nose tackle Terrance Knighton started suffering from cluster headache at age 14.3

According to an ESPN news article, Knighton was sitting in his high school class around 9:00 a.m. when his first nightmarish attack started.

The pain was so bad, Knighton says, “I was crying every night. Everyone thought I was having an aneurysm, and we did not know what was going on. We were thinking the worst.”


Research Reveals Age of Onset

Todd D. Rozen, M.D., conducted one of the largest surveys of cluster headache sufferers and asked 1134 individuals when their cluster headaches started.  He found that a majority started between the ages of 20-40 years old.4

Who Gets Cluster Headaches?

While both men and women can suffer from cluster headaches, it has long been believed to be males-only disorder.  Traditionally, clinical studies have reported that 8 of 10 cluster headache patients are males5 but the male-only myth of cluster headache is starting to change.

According to Dr. Nunu Lund, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, more women than men were not diagnosed with cluster headache until they were examined in a specialized headache center. “The failure to diagnose women with cluster headache,” said Dr. Lund, “implies that cluster headache is perceived as a males-only disorder.”1

Most Sufferers Have Episodic Cluster Headache

In Dr. Rozen’s study of 1134 individuals, 868 patients had “episodic” cluster headache.4 About eight out of 10 of those suffering from cluster headache will experience them in a series of bouts, each episode typically lasts more than a week separated by a pain-free period that can last about two weeks or more. Most episodic cluster headache sufferers have one or two cluster bouts each year lasting between one to three months.

Chronic Cluster Headache is Less Common

The remaining 20% of sufferers have chronic cluster headache with either no relief or “pain-free” remission within one year or the remission periods last less than three months. This often becomes a life-long disorder among chronic cluster headache sufferers.

The Worst Headache Pain Imaginable

Cluster headaches, also known as “suicide headaches,” are considered among the most painful type of headache a person can have. On a scale of 1 to ten, Knighton said he’d rank his cluster headaches a “50.” 3

Hope For Chronic Cluster Headache Sufferers

There are promising new treatment options, including the Pulsante SPG Microstimulation System.  Pulsante Therapy is designed to provide on-demand therapy to relieve the acute, debilitating pain of cluster headache.


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  1. Lund, et al. Chronobiology differs between men and women with cluster headache, clinical phenotype does not. Neurology. 2017 Mar 14;88(11):1069-1076.
  2. Capra, F. The Name above the Title: An Autobiography. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (March 22, 1997)
  3. Keim, J. (2015, Nov 10). Cluster headaches a living ‘hell’ for Redskins’ Terrance Knighton. Retrieved from URL:
  4. Rozen, et al. Cluster headache in the United States of America: demographics, clinical characteristics, triggers, suicidality, and personal burden. Headache 2012;52:99–113.
  5. Ekbom, et al. Age at onset and sex ratio in cluster headache: observations over three decades. Cephalalgia 2002;22:94–100.
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