There is no specific cure for migraine headaches. The goal is to treat your migraine symptoms right away, and to prevent symptoms by avoiding or changing your triggers.
A key step involves learning how to manage your migraines at home. A headache diary can help you identify your headache triggers. Then you and your doctor can plan how to avoid these triggers.
If you have frequent migraines, your doctor may prescribe medicine to reduce the number of attacks. You need to take the medicine every day for it to be effective. Medications may include:
- Antidepressants such as amitriptyline or venlafaxine
- Blood pressure medicines such as beta blockers (propanolol, metroprolol) or calcium channel blockers (verapamil)
- Seizure medicines such as valproic acid, gabapentin, and topiramate
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injections may also help reduce migraine attacks if they occur more than 15 days per month.
TREATING AN ATTACK
Other medicines are taken at the first sign of a migraine attack. Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin are often helpful when your migraine is mild. Be aware, however, that:
- Taking medicines more than 3 days a week may lead to rebound headaches -- headaches that keep coming back.
- Taking too much acetaminophen can damage your liver. Too much ibuprofen or aspirin can irritate your stomach.
If these treatments don't help, ask your doctor about prescription medicines. These include nasal sprays, suppositories, or injections. Your doctor can select from several different types of medications, including:
- Triptans -- prescribed most often for stopping migraine attacks
- Ergots -- contain different forms of ergotamine
- Isometheptene (Midrin)
Some migraine medicines narrow your blood vessels. If you are at risk for heart attacks or have heart disease, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines. Do not take ergots if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Other medications are given to treat the symptoms of migraine. They may be used alone or along with other drugs. Medications in this group include:
Feverfew is a popular herb for migraines. Several studies, but not all, support using feverfew for treating migraines. If you are interested in trying feverfew, make sure your doctor approves. Also, know that herbal remedies sold in drugstores and health food stores are not regulated. Work with a trained herbalist when selecting herbs.