Cluster headache is a primary headache by definition not caused by any known underlying structural pathology. However, symptomatic cases have been described, for example tumours, particularly pituitary adenomas, malformations, and infections/inflammations. The evaluation of cluster headache is an issue unresolved.
I present a case of a 24-year-old patient who presented with a 4-week history of side-locked attacks of pain located in the left orbit. He satisfied the revised International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria for cluster headache. His medical and family histories were unremarkable. There was no history of headache. A diagnosis of cluster headache was made. The patient responded to symptomatic treatment. Low-dose computer tomography scan after 2 weeks displayed a left-sided acute maxillary sinusitis. The headache attacks resolved completely after treatment with antibiotics and sinus puncture.
Discussion and evaluation
Although I cannot exclude an unintentional comorbidity, in my opinion, the co-occurrence of an acute maxillary sinusitis with unilateral headache, in a hitherto headache-free man, points toward the fact that in this case the cluster headache was caused or triggered by the sinusitis. The headache attacks resolved completely after the treatment and the patient also remained headache free at the follow-up. The response of the headache to sumatriptan and other typical cluster headache medications does not exclude a secondary form. Symptomatic cluster headaches responsive to this therapy have been described. Associated cranial lesions such as infections have been reported in cluster headache patients and the attacks may be clinically indistinguishable from the primary form.
Neuroimaging, preferably contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging including sinuses should always be considered in patients with cluster headache despite normal neurological examination. Acute maxillary sinusitis can present as cluster headache.