Oxygen could help painful cluster headaches

December 8, 2009 Oxygen is giving Valerie Walker a drug free way of cutting the length of a cluster headache which can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours several times a day.

"Cluster headache for me is on one side of the head and it's usually a very piercing, stabbing pain in the eye area," Valerie described.

"Our study showed for the first time a clear difference between oxygen and air in the treatment of acute cluster headache. It was properly powered, randomized and placebo controlled and really provides evidence for the use of oxygen in cluster headache," said Dr. Peter Goadsby of the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Goadsby and fellow international co-authors followed 76 patients in London, England from 2002 to 2007, treating four cluster headaches in each patient using air and oxygen.

The study is featured in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association and found patients using the oxygen were most likely pain free after 15 minutes of treatment.

"20 percent of attacks were improved on placebo which is air and 78 percent of attacks were improved on oxygen, a clear difference in favor of oxygen."

"It means the difference between being in pain for most of the day for me instead of just being in pain for short bouts throughout the day," Valerie said.

"This study is important because it offers patients with cluster headaches a safe, effective treatment that they can use on multiple occasions that will give them good pain relief for their appalling headaches," said Dr. Goadsby.

Researchers also found that not only does the oxygen help stop the pain of an attack but it also can turn off other symptoms including, eye watering, swelling and redness.

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