Fortunately, managing migraines have become possible in the last decade. Although there is still no cure, medications can help reduce the frequency of migraine and stop the pain once it has started. The right medicines combined with self-help remedies and changes in lifestyle can make a tremendous difference in migraine management.
A variety of drugs have been specifically designed to treat migraines. Migraine medications are broadly divided into:
- Pain-relieving medications- these drugs are normally taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop migraine symptoms that have already begun.
- Preventive medications: Taken regularly, often on a daily basis, these drugs reduce the severity or frequency of migraines.
: These drugs must be taken as soon as the signs and symptoms of a migraine are experienced. They consist of:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medications help relieve mild migraines but aren't effective for severe migraines. If taken too often or for long periods of time, these drugs can lead to ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding and rebound headaches.
Triptans: For people with severe migraine attacks. They are effective in relieving migraine associated pain, nausea and sensitivity to light. Side effects of triptans include nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness and, rarely, stroke and heart attack.
Ergots: Ergotamine, a common prescription medication for more than 60 years now, was used before triptans were introduced. Ergotamine, however, is not as effective or as expensive as triptans. Dihydroergotamine is an ergot derivative that is more effective and has fewer side effects.
Anti-nausea medications: Since migraine attacks are often accompanied by nausea with or without vomiting, medication for treatment of these symptoms is usually combined with other medications like metoclopramide (oral) or prochlorperazine (oral or rectal suppository).
Butalbital combinations: Medications that combine the sedative Butalbital with aspirin or acetaminophen are sometimes used to treat migraine
attacks. These medications, however, have a high risk of repeat headaches and withdrawal symptoms. It is for this reason that they should be used infrequently.
Opiates: Medications containing narcotics, particularly codeine, are sometimes prescribed to people who can’t take triptans or ergots. These drugs can be addictive and are usually used only as a last resort. Preventive medications
: These drugs can reduce the frequency, severity and length of migraines as well as increase the effectiveness of symptom-relieving medicines. These drugs include:
Cardiovascular drugs: Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and antihypertensive medications, commonly used to treat high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Considered among first-line treatment agents, these drugs can have side effects which include dizziness, drowsiness or lightheadedness.
Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants can positively prevent all types of headaches, including migraines. These medications may reduce migraines by affecting the level of serotonin and other brain chemicals.
Anti-seizure drugs: Although unclear, some anti-seizure drugs seem to prevent migraines. In high doses, however, these anti-seizure drugs may cause side effects, like nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, hair loss and dizziness.
Cyproheptadine: This antihistamine specifically affects serotonin activity. Doctors sometimes give it to children as a preventive measure.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox): Some people receiving Botox injections for facial wrinkles have noted improvement in their headache
. It is believed that the drug causes changes in the nervous system, modifying a person's tendency to develop migraines. Managing migraine
Whether or not you take a form of medication for migraine, small lifestyle changes and can help manage migraines better, both in terms of how often they occur and the severity of symptoms. Establishing a daily routine, eating and exercising regularly, waking and going to bed at the same time every day will undoubtedly help to manage migraines.
In addition, you must learn to things that may cause migraines. The challenge is to learn about your own independent triggers so that migraine management becomes easy. Moreover, keeping a written record of migraine attacks, including what you eat, drink, or do, can help you spot a particular trigger.
Limiting your caffeine intake, i.e. coffee, tea or cola drinks per day will prove to be beneficial because caffeine withdrawal is a potent headache trigger. Cutting out foods with migraine triggering ingredients is also a good idea.
By Mark Bevan
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