Background The aim of this study was to investigate clinical features of a cluster headache cohort in Sweden and to construct and test a new scale for grading severity. Methods Subjects were identified by screening medical records for the ICD 10 code G44.0, that is, cluster headache. Five hundred participating research subjects filled in a questionnaire including personal, demographic and medical aspects. We constructed a novel scale for grading cluster headache in this cohort: The Cluster Headache Severity Scale, which included number of attacks per day, attack and period duration. The lowest total score was three and the highest 12, and we used the Cluster Headache Severity Scale to grade subjects suffering from cluster headache. We further implemented the scale by defining a cluster headache maximum severity subgroup with a high Cluster Headache Severity Scale score ≥ 9. Results A majority (66.7%) of the patients reported that attacks appear at certain time intervals. In addition, cluster headache patients who were current tobacco users or had a history of tobacco consumption had a later age of disease onset (31.7 years) compared to non-tobacco users (28.5 years). The Cluster Headache Severity Scale score was higher in the patient group reporting sporadic or no alcohol intake than in the groups reporting an alcohol consumption of three to four standard units per week or more. Maximum severity cluster headache patients were characterised by higher age at disease onset, greater use of prophylactic medication, reduced hours of sleep, and lower alcohol consumption compared to the non-cluster headache maximum severity group. Conclusion There was a wide variation of severity grade among cluster headache patients, with a very marked impact on daily living for the most profoundly affected.
Keywords: Smoking; alcohol; disease burden; trigger factors.