Migraine headaches can cause pulsating or throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. Abortive migraine medication can treat symptoms when a person experiences a migraine headache.
There are two treatments for migraine headache: abortive and preventive care. Abortive care often involves medications to help treat a migraine headache and symptoms as it occurs. Preventive care helps stop migraine headaches from happening.
While abortive migraine medication can help soothe symptoms, people may experience side effects. Keep reading for more information on medications that treat migraine headaches, their benefits, side effects, and more.
Abortive migraine medications are drugs that can help stop a migraine headache after it starts.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that approximately
Research notes that over half of all people who have migraine headaches use over-the-counter pain relievers and only contact a doctor when nonprescription medication does not work or stops working.
For mild to moderate migraine headaches, a doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as the first line of therapy.
However, for severe migraine headaches or those that do not respond to nonprescription medications, a doctor may prescribe triptans or ergotamines as abortive care.
Doctors are likely to recommend over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication or triptans as the first line of treatment if a person has mild or moderate migraine headaches.
If a person’s migraine headache does not respond to nonprescription medication or a person’s migraine headache is severe, a doctor may prescribe triptans or ergotamines.
However, doctors will not prescribe triptans and ergotamines to everyone with migraine. Most triptans are unsuitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Doctors will not prescribe any triptans for people who are over
- a history of heart attack
- coronary heart disease
- hemiplegic migraine headaches
- high blood pressure
- peripheral vascular disease
- liver or kidney failure
The researchers also suggest that eletriptan is also safe for use in people who are breastfeeding. However, the AAP has not reviewed eletriptan for this use.
People who cannot use triptans will not be able to use ergotamines. In addition, doctors will not prescribe this medication for people who take CYP 3A4 inhibitors as it can result in stroke, gangrene, or death. These inhibitors
- grapefruit juice
- macrolide antibiotics
- protease inhibitors
A doctor will work with a person to determine the best treatment plan for their needs.
Triptans are a class of medication that treat migraine headache symptoms. Currently, doctors can prescribe
- sumatriptan, which is also suitable for cluster headaches
- naratriptan and frovatriptan, which doctors may prescribe off-label for menstrual migraine headaches
- zolmitriptan, which is available in a nasal spray for children ages 12 years or over
- almotriptan, which is suitable for teenagers with migraine headaches lasting more than 4 hours
People can take triptans as soon as a migraine headache starts and take them once every 2 hours. However, triptans are
Triptans are an effective treatment for migraine headaches. A
The study notes that triptans were more effective than ergotamines and equally or more effective than NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). Participants reported less pain and prolonged pain relief with a combination of triptans and acetaminophen or ASA.
The researchers also found that sumatriptan injections and oral zolmitriptan, rizatriptan, and eletriptan treated migraine headaches more effectively than other triptan medications.
Triptans can cause
Less than 1% of people may experience irregular heartbeat, heart attack, or stroke.
Ergotamines are a type of ergot alkaloid class medication. Doctors may prescribe this medication when OTC drugs, triptans, or other medications, do not ease symptoms.
Ergotamines are available in tablet, suppository, injection, and aerosol form. A person may take the medication at the first sign of a migraine headache and take another tablet in
Ergotamines are effective at treating migraine headaches, especially when combined with caffeine.
The researchers also found that while triptans are more effective at reducing pain, ergotamine is more effective for migraine headaches that have a longer duration and for people who experience more frequent headaches.
Ergotamines can cause a range of side effects. The most common
- nausea and vomiting
- transient lower limb muscle pain
- overuse headache
Doctors will not prescribe triptans or ergotamines if a person is pregnant or breastfeeding, over 65 years old, or has specific health conditions. These medications
Triptan overdose has a
People who overdose on ergotamines are at risk of ergotamine poisoning, which can result in death. Symptoms of overdose include:
- numbness or tingling sensation
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- blue hands and feet
- fainting or unconsciousness
People should seek immediate medical attention if they or someone they know has taken an overdose of triptans or ergotamines.
A person should follow all instructions from their doctor and medication labels when using abortive migraine headache medication. A person should not stop therapy unless their doctor recommends they do so.
Using triptans and ergotamines can lead to overuse headaches. Stopping the use of these medications is the most effective way of treating this symptom. However, a person who stops using triptans and ergotamines may experience:
- a worsening of headache symptoms
- interrupted sleep
People should discuss stopping medication with their doctor. The doctor can form a treatment plan for any withdrawal symptoms, such as prescribing antinausea medication.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two additional abortive migraine headache medications:
Reyvow can reduce symptom pain within 2 hours. People should not take this medication if they intend to drive or operate heavy machinery. The medication cause side effects,
- burning or prickling sensation in the skin
Ubrelvy can also reduce symptom severity within 2 hours. People should not take this medication in conjunction with other CYP 3A4 inhibitors, and it can cause
- dry mouth
A person should talk to their doctor if they experience side effects of any medication or if the medication does not ease the migraine headaches. A doctor will work with a person to form a treatment plan to prevent and treat migraine headaches.
A person should seek immediate medical attention if they or someone they know takes an overdose of triptans or ergotamines.
People take abortive medication as soon as a migraine headache starts. The medication can reduce pain as well as other migraine headache symptoms.
A doctor may recommend NSAIDs for mild to moderate headaches, triptans for moderate to severe headaches, and ergotamines where other treatments are not working.
Each medication can cause side effects. A person should consult their doctor if they experience any side effects and seek immediate medical attention if they or someone they know takes an overdose of triptans or ergotamines.