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How do triptans treat migraine?

Expert:   Lawrence C. Newman, MD, Director, The Headache Institute, Roosevelt Hospital Center »

Triptans have been around for decades--they're the first prescription drugs specifically approved to treat migraines. Interested in finding out more? Take a look at this video.

Transcript: Triptans are the first prescription medications specifically approved for migraine relief. They are what is known as “serotonin agonists.” So what does that mean? Triptans bind to the serotonin receptors on blood vessels and nerves and that helps relieve the headache and associated symptoms. There are SEVEN triptans. Almotriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, frovatriptan and eletriptan are the newer versions. SUMATRIPTAN, however, is the most studied and most frequently used of all the triptans. Triptans are administered as injections, pills and nasal sprays. They are particularly useful for people who experience nausea and vomiting. To further speed their effectiveness, take triptans at the FIRST signs of a headache. Although triptans are very effective ways to treat migraine attacks, they are not the best choice for everyone: If you are at risk for a stroke, or if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, you should AVOID triptans. People on antidepressants should ask their doctors about using triptans. Triptans are generally not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women. If you take triptans, limit their use to 2 days a week, or however your doctor advises. Taking them more often may actually CAUSE a headache. And you want to be aware of the side effects, including tingling, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and heaviness or pain in the chest. If they persist or become troublesome, tell your doctor. More »

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