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Age? Altitude? Verapamil? Zomig? Exercise?
andy63thisyear posted a topic in General BoardI was diagnosed with CH this month. I kept thinking I had sinus problems because of the stuffy nose and pain behind my eye. Looking back over the years, I now realize that I may have been experiencing CH for years, but now, at age 62 it is much worse! They started when I got home from hiking to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro (19300 ft). My neurologist has prescribed low dose of Verapamil and Zomig nasal spray (which I can't take until my MRI has been read). She said getting Oxygen in nearly impossible. As the rest of you, I have found that over-the-counter pain meds have NO impact at all, so I quit taking them. The only thing I have found that stops the CH is 16 minutes running on the treadmill. Even when I wake up at 1:00 am, it works immediately (forget about sleep for awhile). Has anyone else had experience with CH past the age of 60? triggered by high altitude? Relief via vigorous exercise for 15 minutes? What about Verapamil? Zomig?
Verapamil ER Discontinued by Manufacturer
Hurting Cowgirl posted a topic in General BoardAccording to the FDA there is a shortage (unavailability, really) of verapamil ER in the U.S. The manufacturer stopped making it recently, I think in February 2019. It looks like it is not available in any strength. This has been a miracle drug for me for cluster and I've run out and am now having a bad time. I'm going to have to try replacing it with regular verapamil. Does anyone know if there is a way to ask FDA to get verapamil ER made by another company, maybe as an orphan drug?
Thank God for this forum and a few questions!
amyorr posted a topic in General BoardI have been quietly lurking on these forums for over 20 years now. I haven't had to post because I usually found the answers to everything I needed. My CH occur every 24 months for 2-4 weeks since 1997. It took many misdiagnoses, incorrect medications, MRI, IV anti-inflammatory drips and trips to emerg before someone finally mentioned Cluster Headache. I consider myself a veteran now - when the beast appears, I get my Imitrex, Verapamil, Oxygen and lorazapam meds handy, inform my employer and let my supportive family know I am fighting the beast again for awhile and it takes everything out of me. Every cycle brings me back here to reread breathing techniques, follow new studies and look for something new to try. I have not tried Vitamin M but that is next on my list to try to extend my remission period. So first THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of your valuable information and support. I have a useless doctor who has never done any research for me despite my long history of the disease. My questions: 1. I live in Canada and my pharmacist says the Imitrex injectable vials are "discontinued." I have only ever used Imitrex nasal spray but they leave me feeling dizzy and eventually stop working early in my cycle. I would like to use the injectable form next cycle- any suggestions for me to find this on my own? 2. I read that Zomig may be more effective - is this in a nasal spray or injectable as well? Should I try that next cycle if I can't get the injectable Imitrex? 3. Verapamil - first time I was prescribed it as a preventative I began taking it in July (2013- expected cycle) and had shadows. Verapamil worked to prevent the cycle and I stayed on it for 6 months to xmas. I weaned off Verapamil a few days before xmas and 2 days later the beast hit. The verapamil only delayed the cycle but it often feels like it won't let me get away with anything without taking me down first!!!! 4. I am into week 4 of my current cycle. The Vit D protocol and Verapamil together bring down the intensity and frequency of the hits. I have had a few PF nights. However, this morning I woke up from a dream ( as usual - most of my attacks come right out of REM sleep) at 5am to an intense HA that I first tried to hit with oxygen, then Immitrex....then gave up wimpering in the shower and sobbing myself to sleep. The lastest addition to my clusters is the Panic Attack which has me vomiting along with the beast. The lorazapem helps to relax me so I can focus on just breathing through the beast. Four hours later, I woke up feeling dizzy, weak, exhausted with no head ache. This usually signals the end of my cycle. So why when I see the effects of the verapamil and Vit D for a week or more do I still get whacked at least one good time before the beast quits? It's like he has to win every god damn time!!!!! Sorry for the rant. As you all will agree, no one really understands what I am going unless you have been there with me Looking forward to any thoughts, Amy
Just Diagnosed with CH
AJS posted a topic in General BoardHello Clusterbusters! Comforted/distraught to be among you. Here is a brief history of my life with clusters so far, leading up to my diagnosis and including the treatment I am currently undergoing. Perhaps it will provide some succor to other suffers, as many of your stories have for me. I would also appreciate any advice regarding my current and future hopes for coping and treatment. I was recently diagnosed with CH, but have been suffering from attacks for at least four years. (For demographic interest, I'm a 42-year-old white male.) The first CH cycle was the worst, both because the intensity of the pain was 10/10 night after night, and because I had no idea what was happening. I thought I was dying. Then when I didn't die, I wondered how could that be? How could a person experience pain like that and not drop dead? It felt like my right eyeball was being burned out of its socket and that side of my brain was being sliced and pulped by a sadistic prep chef. This criminally insane cook favored a dull, rusty knife when it came to sawing against the trigeminal nerve, a technique that would send searing bolts of pain arcing around my ocular cavity to my face and down my neck, across my shoulder, all the way down my arm to my fingertips. When the cycle started, the attacks came in the early evening, often while I was still at work. As it wore on, they moved into the wee hours. They lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. Some days I'd have one in the early evening and one between 1 am and 3 am. Being woken up this way, night after night, was very frightening. I started to lose my mind. I became desperate, depressed. The cycle lasted about four weeks, lessened in intensity late in the fourth, and then, poof, went away. I attributed it to several factors, a perfect storm in fact: First I thought they were very bad eye strain headaches. I am a magazine editor and that is a common affliction of the trade. Turned out I did need glasses, and badly. Then I thought the attacks were allergy related. It was spring time in NYC, and even though I'd never had allergies before I thought I must have finally gotten them, because the attacks always came paired with sinus congestion and pain, not to mention my right eye turning red, watering, and drooping. Often, a burning, spreading pain in the sinuses would herald an attack. Or a sneeze, even, would have as its echo a sledgehammer blow to the right temple. I was also under a lot of emotional stress at this time, separating from my wife, who had a wonderful talent for telling me in minute detail how exactly I had ruined her life. That alone seems like it should have killed me. My doctor — a man who wore a ponytail and called me "babe" like the 70s never ended (which, for the record, is why I liked seeing him) — didn't know what to make of it. He told me to take extra strength Excedrin and not to let the "assholes of the world" get to me. I took his advice, and it was actually helpful. The Excedrin didn't put a dent in the clusters, but the cycle was ending anyway. I really needed to CHILL OUT. That was when I was 38. I changed a lot of things in my life after that: got glasses, started exercising more, cut back on drinking, left NYC for Austin. Over the next couple of years I had what I would describe as mini cluster cycles. Some of the attacks were severe, but the cycles were briefer, lasting just a week or two. They always came either in the winter or spring. During the worse of these two cycles I went through the same check list of possible culprits: eyes, allergies, emotional distress. I went to the optometrist and updated my prescription (there's nothing wrong with my eyes besides besides hereditary nearsightedness and astigmatism), took antihistamines, and gave myself a break about my girl-probs. The other cycle was so brief I didn't even begin thinking about what could be wrong. In both cases the attacks eventually stopped, but not because of anything I changed in my life. As with the first cycle, they just faded away and went poof. What's worse, I never connected these cycles as being related. I allowed them to fade from memory once they were gone, just happy to be better, never imagining it was something I'd have to go through again. Then January 2018 rolled around and HOLY SHIT, the clusters came back with a vengeance. It must be noted that this was again during a time of great emotional distress, again related to my relationship with a woman, in this case my live-in girlfriend falling into her own downward spiral of suicidal depression and blaming me for it (I know, guys, it's a trend!). From what I've read, emotional stress may or may not be a trigger for clusters. There's no proven causality link, but there is some anecdotal evidence that the one can follow the other. In my case, at least so far, they seem to come paired. This attack has been of a similar severity to the first, but the attacks are a bit different. They last the same duration, 60 to 90 minutes, but the eye is not as effected. It may turn red, but doesn't droop as much, nor does it burn as much, and there isn't much lachrymation. The attacks start either in the sinuses or in the right temple. Pressure grows in these regions quickly into a full-blown attack. It feels like someone is pushing their finger into my temple and wagging it around. I now call it the Wagging Finger of Pain. It moves slowly sometimes, leaving tracers of pain in its wake. It touches points around my ocular cavity. These points burn brightly, white light, and pain radiates out from the little stars. The Finger also plays arpeggios on the trigeminal nerve, sending electric currents of pain racing down the side of my face, neck, shoulder, arm, and fingers. Sometimes it wags quickly, vibrating against one point, turning it to burning, screaming jelly. The pain notwithstanding, the most disturbing aspect of this cycle is my awareness (or hallucination) of movement. It actually feels like something is inside my head, moving around. Or like my brain itself is changing shape, growing tendrils, deforming, becoming something else. I really can't believe that I go back to being a "normal" human adult afterwards. Also during this cycle I've become much more aware of shadows between attacks. In this phase, I describe it as The Eel. It feels like there's an eel coiled in my right ocular cavity with its tail draped down beneath my cheekbone. During the day The Eel shifts. He wags his tail, but slowly, with only minor pains here and there that fade without becoming full attacks. Sometimes The Eel isn't there and instead there are suction cups attached to the right temple that connect by filament to a spot on my right shoulder. When I move my head it seems to tug against this point and the suction cups pull against the temple. I also have sinus trouble throughout the day, with my nose closing up either partially or entirely with bouts of sneezing, which lead me to again blame it all on allergies. After suffering like this for two weeks I saw my doctor (new doctor in Austin, not Dr. Pony Tail in NYC). We'll call him Dr. White Hair. He listened to my troubles and said I was having migraines. He prescribed me sumatriptan, which I opted to take in a nasal spray format (here I was still obsessed with the idea that the attacks were coming from allergies and emanating from the sinuses). It worked. At the onset of an attack, I'd blast the sumatriptan in my right nostril and within 10-15 minutes the attack would abort. It was brilliant, partially. While the drug was very effective at stopping attacks, the cessation was only temporary. In one instance after using sumatriptan to stop an attack, an attack returned later that night with even greater intensity! In short, I burned through almost all six doses of sumatriptan in four days with no break in the cycle, just some relief and plenty of groggy, spacey side effects from the drug. I tried to re-up my prescription, only to be told that my insurance will only cover one six-pack of nasal-delivered sumatriptan per month. Full price was something like $450!! The trouble was I had a conference coming up and couldn't foresee interacting with colleagues and leading a panel while being in the midst of a cluster cycle. I had one sumatriptan left, and was holding onto it like a magical bullet. I carried it with me everywhere I went, while knowing I'd have to save it in case an attack started right before the panel I was to lead. I tried to get into see Dr. White Hair again to see if there was anything else he could prescribe, but he was out sick. In desperation I found another doctor online at one of these franchised walk-in outpatient storefronts that have popped up in recent years. Random as it was, it turned out to be a stroke of luck. The doctor (We'll call him Dr. Razor, because he's sharp) turned out to have something of a headache fetish. His daughter is a chronic migraine sufferer, so he's read the literature on cephalagias. He listened to me talk for five minutes and told me I suffer from Cluster Headache, though he called them Cluster Migraines. The phrase turned on a light inside me and I remembered my first cycle of attacks. In trying to figure out what was happening to me then I had found a description of Cluster Headache online. It seemed to fit the bill, but I didn't think it was what I had, or didn't want to think so: How could little ol' me suffer from the Worst Headache Known to Humankind? Dr. Razor prescribed a dual treatment: prednisone and verapamil. The first, he said, would suppress the attacks and break the cycle, the second would keep another cycle from following the first. He also decided to go full shock-and-awe mode with a heavy dose: 60 mg of prednisone per day for two weeks, tapering to 40 mg per day for another two weeks, and 240 mg per day of verapamil for the next SIX MONTHS! I just finished my first two weeks, and they have been mostly good. The treatment also came paired with another important realization, which is that alcohol was triggering attacks and making them worse. So I stopped drinking (normally I am a daily drinker, at least two beers if not more) and started this regimen of medication. Immediately, the attacks moved from occurring in the early evening to the wee hours of the morning, as was the case with the first cycle: a moving of time until later in the day as the cycle wore on. The attacks also lessened in intensity and duration, tapering down to as little as 15 minutes with the pain only reaching up to 7/10 at worst, but mostly hovering at 5/10. Even these baby clusters are all-consuming, though. When The Wagging Finger of Pain is doing its thing, it has my full attention. I also stopped freaking out so much during attacks and instead focused on trying to keep calm. My method here is to make herbal tea and sit up on the couch with the hot steam wafting over my face. Drinking the hot liquid seems to offer some comfort, and the steam at least somewhat opens the clogged sinuses. It's also relieving to press the hot mug against my face and temple. I also try to meditate. I've been meditating since I was 7 years old (hippie parents) and can reach a meditative state in seconds on a good day. But I'm no Yogi Master. Against a raging CH my mantra is useless, like shooting an M1 Abrams tank with a BB gun. As I write this, I've been in remission for a week, but I'm still feeling shadows throughout the day. Yesterday I tapered off the 60 mg dose of prednisone to the 40 mg. I feel much better. The drugs were making me feel seriously roided out. I couldn't sleep and was angry! Now I'm a little more calm, though still a little jumpy, and hungry. I want to eat all the time! Meanwhile, the verapamil is definitely causing some constipation. My stool is coming out in little globes. Each movement is like emptying a sack of marbles in the toilet. So I feel like a big rabbit when I shit. I'm thinking of taking a fiber supplement for that. Looking ahead into the future, what I want to do is try Busting first. I'd also like to get an oxygen tank, but Dr. Razor says it's tough to get insurance companies to cover it. While I'm grateful for the prednisone and verapamil, I don't want the negative side effects, or to be on pharmaceuticals for such long durations (I still can't believe I have to be on the Verapamil for 6 months.) Last weekend I went out to my dad's place. He had some MM that a friend had given him. This friend is also a CH sufferer who grows his own. He gave us the details on how much to take. We took it and it was a pleasant experience. I hadn't done anything like that since 1996 and dad hadn't dabbled since 1968! I don't know that it had any effect on the CH. Here on clusterbusters they say that the other meds I'm on can negate the benefit of Busting. Whether or not it does, it's hard to say what treatment is doing what when you're on so many! My goal here is to ween myself off the pharmaceuticals and try natural coping and prevention methods going forward. I got a deep tissue massage, which was helpful at least in relieving the tension I was building up in my body during attacks. I was holding a lot of stress in my jaw. I've also started magnesium supplements, which is probably a good thing, whether or not it helps prevent CH. And this weekend I'm going to try Craniosacral Therapy. What the hell, right? I'm interested in hearing what other cluster heads think of this. Has anyone else been put on verapamil for such a long period? It seems excessive to me, especially considering my previous attacks have all gone into remission after a few weeks. Also, I've read a few people mention the d3 regimen. What is this? Thanks for reading!
Verapamil delaying Cluster?
amyorr posted a topic in General BoardGood Morning. I am a long time CH sufferer but consider myself lucky. I experience Clusters every 2 years for about 3 weeks. The time period shifts on my usually due to stress, I can only assume. I have been to a neurologist and have finally convinced my physician to prescribe Oxygen. I successfully use Oxygen and Immitrex to abort most of my clusters. Here is my question - 4 years ago, i used Verapamil (240mg - two pills a day) to successfully prevent my CH from occurring in the summer. But, two days after I weaned myself off of them (during Christmas break - a low stress time for me as I am a teacher), they hit in full force and I still had 3 weeks of Headaches. Damn. Two years ago, I did not take the Verapamil, but once my cluster began, I started my Verapamil and my cluster was more manageable, fewer attacks and less extreme. This week, I experienced 2 mild headaches ( stressful time of year). I started my full dose of Verapamil and they stopped. Now, I am stuck wondering if I am simply delaying the inevitable....I ordered my tank and drugs and am ready to face the beast. Do I just wean off the damn Verapamil and let it happen? Has anyone else experienced this delay? Do you have any advice for me? As a teacher, I am not interested in illegal drugs as I can manage the symptoms without it. Thanks so much for any advice. I have often read these boards for advice over the last 20 years and feel very thankful to have people in similar places with this stupid disorder.
Cycle coming to an end?
nomoreclusters777 posted a topic in General BoardGreetings fellow clusterheads. Very grateful for websites and forums like these. Around the age of 12 I started getting the most brutal headaches I had ever endured. At the time we had no idea what they were. As most of you went through as well, I had all the tests, scans, sinus meds, the works. Eventually, on my own after the age of 18, I figured out what they were, and discovered that there was no cure lol. What a kick in the balls that was. Anyway, I'm now 35, in the middle of a cycle, after going 4 years since my last one. The older I get and the more I progress career-wise, the more pissed off I get at these headaches. I'm trying more things than I ever have before, and more consistently, in an effort to find something that works. In past cycles I would be so damn depressed that I would just wait until the next headache, at which time I would alternate between holding a scalding hot heating pad to my head, and taking hot showers for 3-4 hours until the pain began to subside. This time around, as soon as I got the first one, I went to see my doc, and informed all of my different clients (self-employed) that if I was to get a headache, I will be unable to function and work. For the first time ever I found something that worked as an abortive (so far, knock on wood). Imitrex injections. In the past I had taken tablets, but never the injections. A week and a half ago my doc put me on Prednisone hoping to knock the cycle out. 80mg the first day, then 60 for two days, then 40, 20, and 10. No go. As soon as I got to the last day of 10mg, I got a beast of a headache. As of yesterday, I'm now on Verapamil, started with 80mg yesterday, and 160mg today and for the next few days. Plus taking Magnesium supplements, still small though, only 250mg today. The new meds have fucked with my usual cycle, so I'm curious what everyone's thoughts are... In past cycles, I would get one incredibly bad headache in the morning every couple days. It would last 3-4 hours, then I would be sore the rest of the day, and then nothing the next day. The last few days have been as follows... Saturday early morning was the brutal headache following the Prednisone. I was headache free then until Monday early morning when I got one and used the imitrex injection for the first time. About 8 hours later when I woke up I had a milder version of one that I knocked out with a heating pad in a couple hours. That day (yesterday) I began the Verapamil. Today early morning I got another one, thought it seemed slightly weaker, and used the imitrex again to knock it out. Now this evening, earlier than usual, around 8, I got one that seemed even weaker than the one I got early this morning. It was still bad, like someone burrowing out my brain with a spoon, but not nearly as bad as the really bad ones. I used a heating pad, hot showers, and aspirin with codeine, and knocked it out in a couple hours. Today was the day I took 160mg of Varap. My question is... could the cycle be coming to an end already due to the Varap.? Sorry to sound anxious, these things are just a fucking living hell. I'm a musician, so I've basically had to hire subs to be 'on call' in case I get a headache. I anticipate another one a couple hours after falling asleep tonight, and then I will see how tomorrow plays out. I will be on 160mg of Varap. for the next few days. Would you advise me to jump up the dosage? Or see if this one works? And again to my question, can the weakening of headaches be a signal of the end of a cycle? In past cycles I do recall that was how it occurred, but it has varied every time, and I think honestly I try to block out the memories of these fucking things. Thanx for listening to my story! And my heart goes out to all of you sufferers.