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Migraine Headache (cont.)

Migraine Headache Medical Treatment

Despite medical advances, migraines can be difficult to treat. About half of migraineurs stop seeking medical care for their headaches because they are dissatisfied with therapy.

Migraines can be treated with two approaches: abortive and preventive.

  • Abortive: The goal of abortive therapy is to prevent a migraine attack or to stop it once it starts. The prescribed medications stop a headache during its prodrome stage or once it has begun and may be taken as needed. Some can be administered as a self-injection into the thigh; others, as a wafer that melts on the tongue, or as a nasal spray. These forms of medication are especially useful for people who vomit during a migraine, and they work quickly.

Abortive treatment medications include the triptans, which specifically target the chemical serotonin. The triptans are used only to treat headache pain and do not relieve pain from back problems, arthritis, menstruation, or other conditions. Triptan medications include:

The following drugs are also specific and affect serotonin, but they affect other brain chemicals as well. Occasionally, one of these drugs works when a triptan does not.

    • Ergotamine tartrate (Cafergot)
    • Dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45 Injection, Migranal Nasal Spray)
    • Acetaminophen-isometheptene-dichloralphenazone (Midrin)

The following drugs are mainly used for nausea, but they sometimes have an abortive or preventive effect on headaches:

The next drugs are weak members of the narcotic class. They are not specific for migraine, but they can help relieve almost any kind of pain. Since they are habit forming, they are less desirable choices than the specific headache drugs listed above. These drugs should be used primarily as a "backup" for the occasions when a specific drug does not work.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/1/2013

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Migraine Headache »

Migraines are severe, throbbing headaches frequently located in the temples or frontal head regions.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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