Video Q & A:

Prevention 101

Question:

How do calcium channel blockers prevent migraine?

Expert:   Joshua Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. , St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center »

Calcium channel blockers are used to help control high blood pressure. But they also help prevent migraine attacks. Watch this to see how!

Transcript: Calcium channel blockers are used to help control high blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering smooth muscle cells both in the heart and that line the walls of blood vessels. By decreasing the calcium in those cells, the heart beats less forcefully and narrowed blood vessels relax, allowing blood pressure to fall. When calcium channel blockers are prescribed to PREVENT migraine they decrease the inflammation that drives the migraine. In general, though, calcium channel blockers are NOT considered the most effective drugs for prevention of migraine. Doctors FIRST turn to antidepressants, anticonvulsants, beta blockers and other drugs. BUT Calcium channel blockers DO have an important advantage OVER beta blockers—they can be used by people who have asthma and other respiratory diseases. Also, some researchers say that calcium channel blockers are better at preventing migraines with aura. If your doctor recommends that you try a calcium channel blocker to prevent migraine, you should know that the Food & Drug Administration has NOT approved ANY OF THEM for use in migraine prevention. But, several studies with one specific calcium channel blocker called VERAPAMIL have produced positive results. AND Verapamil is the first choice when doctors are prescribing a calcium channel blocker to prevent migraine. Calcium channel blockers cause few side effects—the primary one is constipation; others include dizziness, redness in the face or headache. So talk with your doctor about the treatment options that are best for you. For more information on migraine prevention, watch other videos in this series! More »

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