Oxygen is giving Valerie Walker a drug-free way to stop cluster headaches, which otherwise would last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours.
"Cluster headache for me is on one side of the head and it's usually a very piercing, stabbing pain in the eye area," she said.
"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 Peter J. Goadsby, M.D., Ph.D. University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Goadsby and his international co-authors followed 76 British patients from 2002 to 2007, treating them for cluster headaches, using either air or oxygen. Those given oxygen were most likely to be pain free after 15 minutes of treatment.
Twenty 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," said Dr. Goadsby.
"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," said Valerie.
"This study is important because it offers patients with cluster headache 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.
Not only did the oxygen help stop the pain, it also relieved other symptoms including, eye watering, swelling and redness.
The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.