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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Antidepressants for Migraine Headaches - Topic Overview

Antidepressant medicines, which are usually used to treat depression, can be effective in preventing migraine headaches. Antidepressants have some pain-relieving properties and may reduce duration and frequency of headaches. Antidepressants are also used to improve sleep problems.

Tricyclic antidepressants are used most to prevent migraines. Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are used most often.

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

Understanding Migraine -- Prevention

For anyone who endures frequent or severe migraines, preventing these painful headaches is a top concern. Experts don't know exactly what causes migraines. But they have been able to identify medications to help prevent them. People with frequent or severe migraine attacks can sometimes help prevent migraines if they: Adopt lifestyle changes Avoid migraine triggers Use preventive medications or devices

Read the Understanding Migraine -- Prevention article > >

Other antidepressants may be tried if you do not respond well to amitriptyline or nortriptyline. The choice of antidepressant to treat your migraines may depend on your ability to tolerate the side effects of the medicine.

Side effects of tricyclic antidepressants include:

Never suddenly stop taking antidepressants. The use of any antidepressant should be tapered off slowly and only under the supervision of a doctor. Abruptly stopping antidepressant medicine can cause negative side effects or a relapse into a depressive episode or panic disorder.

FDA advisories. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued:

  • An advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
  • A warning about taking triptans, used for headaches, with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Taking these medicines together can cause a very rare but serious condition called serotonin syndrome.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 17, 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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