Multiple illnesses common in patients with cluster headaches


Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    16 December 2022

Persons with cluster headaches are nearly six times more likely to have disorders of the nervous system and twice more likely to have musculoskeletal conditions, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.1


A total of 3240 persons with cluster headaches in 2010 and 16,200 matched controls were included in this study. The majority of the participants were men. Data was obtained from Statistics Swedens Longitudinal Integration Database for Health Insurance and Labor Market Studies (LISA) and The National Board of Health and Welfares specialized out-patient and in-patient registers. With this information, the researchers aimed to examine the presence of disease conditions among patients with cluster headaches and whether the multiple disease conditions had any bearing on the sickness absence and disability pension.


Majority (~92%) of patients with cluster headaches had multiple comorbidities compared to ~78% of those who did not have cluster headache with an odds ratio of 3.2.


Prevalence of disorders of nervous system was nearly 52% higher among patients with cluster headaches compared to those without cluster headaches (15.4%) with odds ratio of 5.92 Similarly, patients with cluster headaches had 39% higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders compared to 23.7% risk among the controls with odds ratio of 2.0. Women with cluster headaches had more multiple illnesses (96.4%) compared to men (89.6%). Sickness absenteeism was doubled among persons with cluster headaches vs those without cluster headaches; 63 days vs 34 days, respectively. The number of absent days increased four times among participants with cluster headaches and a comorbid condition compared to persons who just had cluster headaches and did not have any other disease condition.


Cluster headaches are severe in nature and short in duration. They occur in clusters over several days consecutively. Each episode lasts for up to 3 hours on average and significantly affects quality of life. Men are affected more than women. This study highlights the higher prevalence of multiple comorbid conditions among patients with cluster headaches. The combination of cluster headache and a heart disease was more disabling compared to other illnesses. These patients, in particular women, also missed work more often due to sickness and disability than persons who just had cluster headaches.



  1. Caroline Ran, et al. Multimorbidity and sickness absence/disability pension in cluster headache patients and matched references: a Swedish register-based study. Neurology Dec 2022, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201685; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201685

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