A dad-of-one has told how he learned to cope with headaches more painful than a gunshot wound or giving birth.
Craig Sammon, 35, from Walton-le-Dale, near Preston, has suffered from cluster headaches for the best part of a decade.
The rare type of headache affects about one to two people in every 1,000. It is one of the most painful conditions an individual can experience and more debilitating than a migraine.
They are called cluster headaches because sufferers usually get one to three of these attacks every day, for several weeks or months, before they subside.
Craig’s headaches were so bad they started to affect his daily life, and even led to him losing a job.
Now he has launched the website www.clusterheadacheuk.info to raise awareness of the condition and try to help others cope.
He said: “They were waking me up in the middle of the night, with a sharp pain behind my eyes.
“It’s classed as the most painful experience known to man - women who suffer from them say it’s worse than giving birth.
“They are one sided, either on the left or right side of your head, and they come on within about 30 seconds. It wakes you up, you’ve got your head in your hands, and you’re rocking back and forth.
“It’s so painful, it’s hard to describe. They were originally nicknamed suicide headaches.”
Craig, who now works at Preston Motor Park, was struggling to function in the day because he was so tired and felt groggy after taking so many painkillers.
It wasn’t until he saw a neurology specialist that he realised they were cluster headaches.
He said: “These headaches are still misdiagnosed and a lot of doctors don’t know about them.
“Painkillers don’t really work - you need to have a high level of pure oxygen or Sumatriptan injections.
“I’ve only just been given these after seven years and they are an absolute Godsend, you inject them into your leg or arm and it dissolves the pain within minutes.
“It’s an incredible medicine but the problem is doctors don’t always know about it and they don’t always give it out because of the costs involved. A lot of doctors think the costs outweigh the benefits.
“It took me so long to get the right help and advice.
“I literally thought it was just something wrong with me, it was affecting my work and I felt alone. I was struggling every single day to get out of bed.”
It is not known why some people are more susceptible to cluster headaches than others.
Craig said: “They think it could be something in the base or the centre of the brain that swells up and touches a bit of the nerve in the brain, which sends pain to your face.
“When I first started experiencing it, I felt like somebody had come in my bedroom and smashed me in the face with a baseball bat.”
When Craig went online he found a lot of information about treatments available in America, but not in the UK.
He said: “I thought I would make a website, my mum donated the money to host it and I paid for the domain name.
“I work in the parts department of a motor dealership so I haven’t got an IT background, but I developed the website and learned how to do it using free software.
“The aim of the website is to try and help people get the help they need.”
The website has had more than 700 visits in its first 10 days.
The homepage features a direct link to an e-petition calling on the Government to help raise awareness of cluster headaches.
Craig said: “Since I was properly diagnosed I’ve been in this job for three years, which is the longest I’ve been in a job.
“When you get the right medicine you don’t have that painkiller hangover anymore.
“People think it’s just a headache but it’s more than that. They say ‘I’ve had one of those once’ but they haven’t! They are in a totally different league to a migraine.”
Visit www.clusterheadacheuk.info to find out more.