Episodic Cluster Headache: A Pressing Need That Must Be Addressed

Today’s guest blog comes from Christi Shaw, Senior Vice President and President of Lilly Bio-Medicines.

Can you imagine living with a pain so severe that it has been described by some as being stabbed by a knife in the eye over and over again? I can’t, and I am grateful that I don’t have to. But approximately 250,000 American adults wake up each day wondering if they will face this type of pain. This is what I hear from the people I talk to who live with episodic cluster headache attacks. 

Episodic cluster headache is an excruciatingly painful neurologic disease. Cluster headache attacks are characterized by severe pain, usually behind the eye, and some persons with the disease describe it as a piercing, burning and throbbing pain. Attacks last 15 to 180 minutes and can occur from once every other day to eight times per day.

While the first attack of a cluster headache is sudden, the path to treatment can be long, often involving misdiagnoses. On average, patients see four physicians over the course of five years or longer before receiving an accurate diagnosis. It’s important that people living with episodic cluster headache get the diagnosis, treatment and respect they deserve.

It’s critical that we acknowledge this disease and its impact on those who live with it. To ensure these patients feel recognized, we need better education about cluster headache. We need quicker, more accurate diagnoses. And we need treatment to be appropriate and accessible.

At Lilly, we come to work every day with a commitment to tackling some of the most challenging scientific questions related to disabling headache disorders. Episodic cluster headache is a pressing need that must be addressed through ongoing scientific research, listening to the people who live with this disease, and advocates like Clusterbusters, who have been a beacon of hope for the cluster headache community.