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    Ergotamines for Migraine Headaches


    Generic Name Brand Name
    dihydroergotamine Migranal
    ergotamine with caffeine Cafergot, Migergot

    How It Works

    Ergotamines narrow (constrict) blood vessels in the brain. It is not clear how they work to stop a migraine. These medicines are available in different forms depending on the drug, including tablets, nasal spray, suppositories, and injections.

    Why It Is Used

    Ergotamines may be used to stop or treat symptoms of an emerging migraine.

    How Well It Works

    Ergotamines have been used for many years to treat headache pain and other symptoms associated with migraines. But these medicines may not be as effective as other migraine medicines, such as triptans.1

    Dihydroergotamine can be effective in some people who do not get relief from triptans.1

    Side Effects

    All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

    Here are some important things to think about:

    • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
    • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
    • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

    Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

    Call your doctor right away if you have:

    Check with your doctor if you have:

    • Itching.
    • Tingling or weakness in fingers or toes.
    • Swelling in the feet, lower legs, or fingers.

    Common side effects of this medicine include:

    • Burning, tingling, dryness or pain in the nose (nasal spray).
    • Change in the sense of taste (nasal spray).
    • Diarrhea.
    • Nausea.

    See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

    What To Think About

    Overuse of migraine drugs can cause rebound headaches. Rebound headaches are different from migraine headaches. They are usually triggered after pain medicine has worn off, prompting you to take another dose. Eventually you get a headache whenever you stop taking the drug. Be sure to take your migraine medicine only as prescribed by your doctor.

    Ergotamines should not be taken with triptans (such as Imitrex).

    It's a good idea to avoid smoking or tobacco replacement products for several hours after taking these medicines. Smoking or other forms of nicotine can increase the side effects of ergotamines.

    Ergotamines may make you more sensitive to cold weather. Dress warmly and if you need to, limit your time in cold weather.

    Taking medicine

    Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

    There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

    Advice for women

    Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.


    Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

    Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


    1. Drugs for migraine (2011). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 9(102): 7-12.

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerColin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology

    Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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