So I’ve been having these headaches, regular ones, a piercing pain through the top-left part of my head, from my temple down to my jaw. They come and go several times a day, mostly in the morning, every hour or two for about 15-30 minutes each time. Sometimes they’re early in the morning, waking me up.
During one of the first, I was trying to open a packet of paracetemol to take a couple of pills. It was a new packet, wrapped in tamper-proof plastic packaging. Which is an absolute bastard to get into when you’ve got severe pain throbbing through your head. I was wrenching at the packet, trying any way I could to get it open. I couldn’t find a bit of the plastic to pull, I couldn’t rip it open, I was bending the box around trying to penetrate it, silently cursing whoever designed it.
I know they’ve had problems with medicines being tampered with before, but couldn’t we just have packaging that makes it obvious there’s been tampering, rather than making it impossible to get into, let alone if you’re in pain?
As it happens, conventional painkillers didn’t help anyway. After some thought and a couple of visits, the doctor diagnosed me with a rare condition known as cluster headaches. It sounds impressive because it is — apparently in some people it can induce suicide, and has been described in medical journals as the most severe pain syndromes known to medical science, suffered by human beings.
That said, I’ve evidently got a mild case, but most of the description describes what I’m getting to a tee:
- very severe headaches of a piercing quality near one eye or temple that last for fifteen minutes to three hours — check
- typically unilateral and rarely change sides during the same cycle — check
- often appearing during seasonal change — check, they popped up just as Daylight Saving started, and they virtually disappeared during our time in Adelaide
- occasionally referred to as “alarm clock headaches”, because of the regularity of its timing and its ability to wake a person from sleep — check
It’s actually caused by a dilation of blood vessels, putting pressure on the trigeminal nerve.
Hopefully this is the correct diagnosis, because I’ve now got medicine which I hope is going to work. It looks damn impressive, a little cluster in itself, a capsule half-filled by smaller bits of stuff. And apart from warnings about heavy machinery and alertness, apparently I’m also banned from eating grapefruit and drinking grapefruit juice for the duration. Not that I’m an enthusiastic grapefruit consumer anyway.
So far so good; they’ve diminished in frequency and length. So I hope we’re on the right track.