Treating Migraine - Medication

Treating Migraine - Medication

Medication used to treat migraine falls into 2 categories:

a) Symptomatic medication used to treat the acute attack

b) Prophylactic medication used to prevent future attacks

Symptomatic Medication

Effective treatment with symptomatic medication aims to terminate or decrease the symptoms of the attack. Analgesics medication such as Panadl, or more potent painkillers such as the NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) may be used.

Common NSAIDs used, include mefenamic acid, naproxen sodium or indomethacin. Another very useful drug for migraine is cafergot. Most of these medications are inexpensive, and are widely available in most clinics. There are newer drugs, called triptans, which are very effective in treating migraine. These are specific for migraine, and may not work for other types of headache.

Examples of triptans include sumatriptan, naratriptan and zolmitriptan. They can be injected or taken as a table - the injection form works faster but is more inconvenient. Their main drawback is their cost as they are more expensive. Besides these drugs, other drugs for nausea and vomiting may also help in alleviating these unpleasant symptoms.

Prophylactic Medication

Prophylactic medication does not help to treat the acute attack of migraine, but serves to prevent it. Therefore, unlike symptomatic treatment which is taken as and when the attack comes, prophylactic medication is taken daily regardless of whether there is pain.

Prophylactic medication is considered for the patient if he or she has attacks more than once a week, if the attacks are severe, if attacks last more than 48 hours, or if it interferes with the patients lifestyle in a major way causing him or her to be unable to cope. Common drugs used in prophylaxis are beta-blockers (such as propanolol or atenolol) and amitriptyline. These must be taken regularly, and take some time to work. Typically, the onset of action only starts 2-4 weeks after initiation of medication.

Side Effects for Migraine Medication

As all medication has side effects, most physicians prefer to start prophylactic medications at a low dose, then gradually build up to the effective dose. Once the medication has started working, it is often not necessary to keep the medication for life. After the headache has been controlled for 6-9 months, it may be possible to gradually tail down on the prophylactic medication, till it can be safely stopped without a rebound headache.

More Info about Migraine - Headache

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