Headache  Cluster Headache

Cluster Headaches Are More Common in Men

Both men and women experience headaches. However, certain types of headaches may be more common in one sex than in the other.

Cluster headaches are a good example. Research shows that men are about five times more likely to have cluster headaches than women.1

What is a cluster headache?

Cluster headaches tend to occur in clusters at the same time of day or night for several weeks or months, followed by a period of time during which there are no cluster attacks.1, 2 Cluster headaches are also often seasonal, with spring and autumn bringing more attacks.1

Head pain from a cluster headache is severe1 and may last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.2 Pain is usually isolated to one side of the head and behind and around the eye.1, 2 Other common cluster headache symptoms include red, watery eyes and a blocked or runny nose that only affect the painful side 1, 2

Cluster headaches: men vs. women

It’s not clear why men get cluster headaches more often than women. Some known risk factors for cluster headaches include smoking, and sensitivity to certain types of foods,2 though it is not known whether these triggers differ significantly in men and women. Cluster headaches may also have a genetic link. A family history of cluster headaches may increase the risk, and play a role in the increased incidence.2,3

Cluster headache symptoms and onset are also slightly different in men than in women. Women tend to have two cluster headache development peaks in their lifetime, in their teens and 40s. Men, on the other hand, usually have only a single headache development peak, in their 20. Both men and women have an average of three cluster headaches per day.4 Women, however, experience shorter periods of head pain than men.4

Despite these differences, treatment for cluster headaches is the same for both sexes. Treatment options may include prescription drugs to treat or prevent the headache, oxygen therapy, or, in rare cases, surgical procedures.1, 2 Pain relievers may not work in cluster headache as they take too long to have an effect and the headache may be over by then.1, 2

If you’re in any doubt or would like to find out more, please consult your doctor.



  1. Lifting the Burden. Information for people affected by cluster headache. Available at:
  2. US Medline Plus. Cluster headache. Available at:
  3. Russell MB, et al. Familial occurrence of cluster headache. JNeurol, Neurosurg & Psych, 1995; 58: 341-343.  
  4. Rozen TD, et al. Cluster headache in women: clinical characteristics and comparison with cluster headache in men. J Neuro, Neurosurg & Psych, 2001; 70: 613-617.