Sumatriptan is a medication used to help with the pain and pressure that comes during a migraine, also aiding with the symptoms of sensitivity to noise, light and neck stiffness. It is the generic version of the branded migraine treatment Imigran and contains the active ingredient Sumatriptan which is part of a group of drugs known as triptans (or 5-HT1 receptor agonists). These are shown to help relieve pain symptoms when traditional treatments such as painkillers are failing to provide relief.
The way they work is to reverse the changes in the brain that cause migraines and subsequently help to alleviate the pain of a migraine more effectively as opposed to paracetamol and ibuprofen which often provide temporary relief but do not produce a substantial result.
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When to take Sumatriptan
The best time to take Sumatriptan is as soon as a migraine begins to form, though it can be taken at any time during an attack. It is advised not to take Sumatriptan to prevent an attack but only to use it once the migraine symptoms have started.
The recommended dose for Adults aged 18 to 65
- one Sumatriptan 50 mg tablet, swallowed whole withwater- Some patients may require a 100 mg dose as advised by your doctor.
- If your symptoms start to return you can take a second Sumatriptan tablet if at least 2 hours have passed since the first tablet
- Do not take more than 300 mg in total in 24 hours.
If the first tablet does not relieve the symptoms do not take a second tablet (or any other Sumatriptan/Imigran preparation) for the same attack, instead consult your GP or pharmacist for further advice.
Sumatriptan can stillbe used for your next attack.
Sumpatriptan can be taken with or without food.
When to use Sumatriptan
Sumatriptan/Imigran is used to the treatment, not the prevention of migraines. It is best taken as the earliest stage of a migraine attack but also at any stage of an episode. Imigran and other triptan medications are beneficial when traditional painkillers have not had the desired effect and when migraines occur less frequently than ten episodes per month.
A migraine is a primary headache disorder distinguished by recurrent headaches that can be moderate to severe, lasting from a few hours to a few days. It can feel like a throbbing pain on one side of the head and associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. It is a common health condition which often begins in early childhood affecting around one in every five women and around one in every fifteen men.
There are several different types of migraine, these include:
- migraine with aura – this is where there are specific warning signs just before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights
- migraine without aura – this is the most common type, where the migraine occurs without the specific warning signs
- migraine aura without headache (also known as silent migraine) – this is where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache doesn’t develop.
Some people have experience migraines frequently- up to several times a week whilst others will only have a migraine occasionally. It is possible for years to pass between migraine attacks.
When to seek medical advice
If you are experiencing frequent or severe migraines, you should consult your GP even if you are managing to control these with medication as you may benefit from a preventative treatment.
Whilst painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help ease migraines, taking these continuously may make it harder to treat headaches over time.
Causes of migraines
There is no exact cause of migraines though it is thought they arise from a result of a temporary change in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Around half of people who suffer with migraines also have a close relative with the condition which suggests that genes may be a factor.
Some people find migraine attacks are associated with certain triggers- emotional, physical, dietary and environmental factors all can play a part.
Emotional triggers include:
Physical triggers include:
- poor quality sleep
- shift work
- poor posture
- neck or shoulder tension
- jet lag
- low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)
- strenuous exercise (if you’re not used to it)
- starting their period
Dietary triggers include:
- missed, delayed or irregular meals
- the food additive tyramine
- caffeine products, such as tea and coffee
- specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruit and cheese
Environmental triggers include:
- bright lights
- flickering screens, such as a television or computer screen
- smoking (or smoky rooms)
- loud noises
- changes in climate, such as changes in humidity or very cold temperatures
- strong smells
- a stuffy atmosphere
Whilst there is no cure for migraines there are several treatments available that can help reduce their symptoms
- painkillers – these include over-the-counter medicationssuch as paracetamol and ibuprofen
- triptans – medications that can help reverse the changes in the brain that may cause migraines
- anti-emetics – medications often used to reduce nausea and vomiting
- During an attack, many people find that sleeping or lying in a darkened room can also help.
If you have identified certain triggers are causing your migraines such as stress or a specific type of food, avoiding these triggers may help reduce your chances of developing a migraine.
It would also be beneficial to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, enough sleep and consistent meals, together with staying hydrated and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
If your migraines are severe and/or you have tried avoiding possible triggers and are still experiencing symptoms, your GP may prescribe medication to help prevent future attacks.
Migraines can have a debilitating effect of the lives of those who suffer and hinder daily activities with some people finding they must stay in bed for days at a time. However, there are treatments available to help reduce symptoms and prevent further attacks so that quality of life can be improved. Whilst migraine attacks can often get worse over time they can also gradually improve across many years for a lot of people.