Linking Cigarette Smoking/Tobacco Exposure and Cluster Headache: A Pathogenesis Theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Introduction: To propose a hypothesis theory to establish a linkage between cigarette smoking and cluster headache pathogenesis. Background: Cluster headache is a primary headache syndrome grouped under the trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias. What distinguishes cluster headache from all other primary headache conditions is its inherent connection to cigarette smoking. It is undeniable that tobacco exposure is in some manner related to cluster headache. The connection to tobacco exposure for cluster headache is so strong that even if an individual sufferer never smoked, then that individual typically had significant secondary smoke exposure as a child from parental smoking behavior and in many instances both scenarios exist. The manner by which cigarette smoking is connected to cluster headache pathogenesis is unknown at present. If this could be determined this may contribute to advancing our understanding of cluster headache pathophysiology. Methods/results: Hypothesis statement. Conclusion: The hypothesis theory will include several principles: (1) the need of double lifetime tobacco exposure, (2) that cadmium is possibly the primary agent in cigarette smoke that leads to hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis toxicity promoting cluster headache, (3) that the estrogenization of the brain and its specific sexually dimorphic nuclei is necessary to develop cluster headache with tobacco exposure, and (4) that the chronic effects of smoking and its toxic metabolites including cadmium and nicotine on the cortex are contributing to the morphometric and orexin alterations that have been previously attributed to the primary headache disorder itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1096-1112
Number of pages17
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • cadmium
  • cigarette
  • cluster headache
  • hypothalamus
  • secondary exposure
  • smoking
  • tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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