Which migraine drugs are best for relieving migraine headaches, and which migraine treatments are best for preventing migraine attacks? Below are the most popular migraine medications, including possible dangerous side effects.
Part I: Migraine pain relievers
Two strategies for migraine relief
- Pain relief- Also known as acute or abortive treatment, these types of drugs are taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop symptoms that have already begun.
- Preventative- Prophylactic migraine drugs are taken regularly, usually every day, in order to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Most prophylactic migraine medicines do not treat other migraine symptoms (nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, light sensitivity, migraine aura), but instead aid in preventing migraines by controlling vascular swelling.
Medications that relieve migraine symptoms
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and simple analgesics
- Ibuprofen- (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin)
- Acetaminophen- (Tylenol)
- Aspirin- (Bufferin, Bayer)
- Ketoprofen- (Orudis)
- Naproxen- (Naprosyn, Aleve)
- Combination migraine painkillers- (Excedrin for Migraines)
Caution: Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are not strong enough to relieve severe migraine headaches. Long-term side effects may include ulcers, internal bleeding, and rebound headache.
Narcotic painkillers for migraines
- Meperidine HCl (Demerol)
- Butalbital, acetaminophen, caffeine (Fioricet)
Caution: Narcotic painkillers are habit forming and a high risk for fatal overdose; side effects include allergic reaction, seizure, feebleness, loss of consciousness, clammy skin, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, anxiety, and increased sweating.
- Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
- Rizatriptan (Maxalt)
- Almotriptan (Axert)
- Naratriptan (Amerge)
- Zolmitriptan (Zomig)
- Frovatriptan (Frova)
- Eletriptan (Relpax)
Caution: Triptans may cause nausea, dizziness, and muscular feebleness, not recommended for patients of heart disease or stroke
- Ergotamine (Ergomar)
- Dihydroergotamine (DHE, Migranal)
Caution: Side effects of Ergot may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, hypertension, chest pain, sneezing, sore throat, fever, visual impairments, numbness in hands and feet, cold hands and feet, weakness in legs, muscular pain, itching, dry mouth, disorientation, anxiety, and fatigue.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan)
- Prochlorperazine (Compro)
Caution: Anti-nausea medications may cause fatigue, diarrhea, dizziness, joint pain, restlessness, sleep difficulties, hair loss, anxiety, constipation, impaired vision, and headache.
- Dexamethasone (Baycadron, Cortastat, Decadron, DexPak)
Caution: Dexamethasone may cause difficulty sleeping, disorientation, dizziness, increased appetite, increased sweating, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, nervousness, depression, mood swings, allergic reaction, changes in menstruation, seizures, muscular pain, joint pain, unusual swelling, fever, sore throat, cough, pressure behind eyes, and headache.
Next: Drugs that Prevent or Stop Migraine Attacks, plus Side Effects: Part II, Preventative Medications
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