Question: What medications are available to prevent migraines?
Answer: There are several types of medications currently available that can reduce the frequency of chronic migraines–there truly isn’t any way to completely prevent them. You cannot obtain any of these medications without a doctor’s approval, however, as they are all FDA-approved prescription medications. Let’s look at which medications can help prevent migraines.
Beta-blockers work by relaxing the blood vessels in the brain, which scientists believe can help prevent migraines. Why they prevent migraines are not clear, however. According to one study reported by WebMD.com, it has around a 50 percent success rate. Doctors often recommend this drug as the first preventative option for migraineurs.
If a doctor recommends this medication, they may prescribe drugs such as atenolol, nadolol or propranolol. There are both brand and generic versions of these drugs, the latter being less expensive.
Beta-blockers, like most medications, can cause undesirable side effects, which may disrupt your day to day life. Their most common side effects include fatigue and sleep problems. Some people may also have trouble with their memory while taking these medications.
Like beta-blockers, antidepressants are one of the main drugs recommended for preventing migraines. Sometimes they are used with beta-blockers to significantly cut back on migraine attacks. They aren’t sure how antidepressants work, however–they only know that they can help prevent some migraine attacks.
Tricylclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, have been shown to be extremely effective, and are often recommended as the first mode of treatment. Other antidepressants, such as MAOIs, SSRIs, or SNRIs, are also recommended.
These medications can cause adverse effects. These effects include dizziness, disorientation, changes in heart rhythm and sexual problems. But there may be other side effects, especially if you have another health condition. Your doctor will ultimately determine if these medications are safe for you or not.
Calcium channel blockers
Doctors often use these drugs when beta-blockers or antidepressants don’t work. This is because calcium channel blockers can take longer to work. These medications work by blocking the effects of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which scientists believe can trigger migraines.
Calcium channel blockers may cause some mild side effects, which are generally well tolerated. Dizziness, nausea, constipation and low blood pressure are commonly reported, along with rapid heartbeat, edema and drowsiness. Again, your doctor will determine if you can handle these effects, if they arise.
Like calcium channel blockers, anticonvulsants are used when beta-blockers or anti-depressants aren’t enough. These drugs also affect how neurotransmitters work inside the brain, which may prevent them from triggering migraines. These are not fact acting medications, however: it can take up to six months before you may experience its real results.
There are serious side effects associated with anticonvulsants, namely their effects on birth control medications. Clinical evidence shows they can reduce the efficacy of these medications, which may put women at a higher risk for getting pregnant. Anticonvulsants can also affect your memory and make your more sleepy.
Keep in mind that all of these medications are the most commonly prescribed drugs used to prevent migraines–this list does not include all possible medications used for these purposes. Your doctor will determine which medication you should take to reduce the frequency of your migraines.