Cluster headaches and why they are so misdiagnosed

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2020 | Blog, Failure To Diagnose

Residents of New Mexico who experience frequent headaches may have a neurological condition known as cluster headache. Cluster headache attacks can last between 15 minutes and three hours, can occur several times a day and are so excruciating that many have compared it to the pain of childbirth. The attacks affect one side of the head and may cause the eyes to water and the nose to become stuffy.

One out of every 1,000 people has this condition, which makes it sound rare. However, it is no more rare than other, more well-known neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The problem is that many doctors have not even heard of cluster headaches, resulting in frequent misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses. Some confuse them with cluster migraines, which, unlike cluster headaches, can cause nausea and light sensitivity.

Most often, cluster headache patients are diagnosed with migraines, trigeminal neuralgia or even dental problems. They may undergo unnecessary treatments like sinus washouts and teeth extraction. Others, once correctly diagnosed, may be given cheap but ineffective treatments: oral triptans, for instance, instead of the more effective injections of that medication.

It’s not surprising, then, that cluster headache is often linked to chronic depression and suicidal thoughts during an attack. Doctors must therefore become more aware of this condition.

When a failure to diagnose/misdiagnosis leads to unnecessary treatment and a preventable prolongation of the patient’s suffering, that patient may be able to file a malpractice claim and be compensated for all of these losses. Proving negligence can be difficult, so victims may want to hire a lawyer who may, in turn, hire third parties to conduct an investigation. Once the case is ready, the lawyer may negotiate on victims’ behalf for a fair settlement out of court.


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