If migraines are frequent or interfere with your life, it may be time to discuss prevention with your doctor. Preventive medications can help stop migraines or reduce their intensity. See if they might help you.
People with migraines may sometimes have low levels of magnesium. Ask your doctor if getting more magnesium could help your migraines. Add magnesium by taking a dietary supplement or by eating more green vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Magnesium supplements may cause diarrhea and upset stomach, so ask your doctor before taking them. Some people with kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements. Note in your journal whether adding magnesium reduces your migraines.
With your doctor's approval, consider taking the supplement coenzyme Q10. Some small studies show it may decrease the frequency of headaches and the number of days with headache-related nausea. Coenzyme Q10 is likely safe for adults, but it can interact with some other drugs and may lower blood pressure in some people. Abnormal liver enzymes have been reported in some people. Just be sure to check with your doctor before taking this or any other supplements.
To prevent period-related migraines, doctors often recommend taking an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Treatment with an NSAID should begin 2 to 3 days before your period starts and continue until your period ends. Take the lowest effective dose. Don't take more than the amount listed on the drug label or recommended by your doctor. If you still have menstrual migraines, talk to your doctor about other preventive medications.
Who Preventives Help
You may benefit from a preventive plan if:
* You have 2 or more migraines a month.
* You don't get relief from pain medication.
* Your migraines include prolonged aura.
Preventive options include biofeedback, relaxation, acupuncture, a device that gives an electric impulse, as well as several types of prescription drugs.
Despite their name, preventive migraine drugs may help with many aspects of migraine treatment. In fact, the goal for taking the drugs may vary, including:
* Fewer attacks
* Less severity and disability
* Shorter duration
* Decreased use of abortive medication
* Enhanced responsiveness of pain medication during attacks
Even if you take a preventive medication, you may still need to take abortive drugs that stop a migraine once it's started to ease pain and other symptoms. Many people do.
Ask your doctor what to expect from a drug:
* What will I gain?
* How long will it take to work? (You may need more than one drug. Finding the best dose for each may take a bit. After that, it may take 2-3 months before you see maximum improvement.)
* How can I avoid side effects? Can I just stop taking it? (You may need to taper off some preventives to avoid rebound headaches.)
You may need more than one preventive medication, and you may need to take them a few times a day. Your doctor may have you take preventives every day. Or you may only need them a few days before a predictable trigger.
Typically, after a few months, or when migraines are well-controlled, your doctor may recommend gradually stopping preventive medication. To avoid rebound headaches that may occur from stopping abruptly, your doctor will usually have you taper off of them.
Commonly used to treat high blood pressure, beta-blockers are also the most often prescribed type of medication to prevent or reduce the severity of migraines. Some migraine beta-blockers are Blocadren (timolol); Corgard (nadolol); Inderal or InnoPran (propranolol); Lopressor, Lopressor LA, or Toprol XL (metoprolol); and Tenormin or Senormin (atenolol). Beta-blockers are not recommended for certain people with breathing problems or slow heart beats. If your doctor suggests one, ask about side effects.
CCBs for Migraine
Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are often used to treat high blood pressure. In some people, they also help prevent migraines and may help ease symptoms from aura. The CCBs most often used for migraines include Calan, Covera, Isoptin, or Verelan (verapamil) and Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, Matzim, or Tiazac (diltiazem).
Other drugs used to lower blood pressure, Prinivil or Zestril (lisinopril), may reduce the length and severity of migraines.
TCAs for Migraines
Antidepressants help ease depression by changing neurotransmitter levels in the brain. In a similar way, they also may help prevent migraines and may have a painkilling effect. A type commonly used for migraines is tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). They include Aventyl or Pamelor (nortriptyline); Elavil, Endep, or Vanatrip (amitriptyline); Vivactil (protriptyline); Adapin, Silenor, or Sinequan (doxepin); and Tofranil (imipramine).
TCAs are a common type of antidepressant used to help prevent migraines. But sometimes doctors prescribe:
* Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline)
* Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as Cymbalta (duloxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
The serotonin blocker Sansert (methysergide) may help prevent migraines by constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation. These medicationss are not used as often as other preventive meds because of their side effects, but they are an option for some people. The most serious side effect is the scarring of tissue around the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure. If your doctor prescribes this, consider asking if it's your only option.
Anticonvulsants are drugs that treat seizure disorders or epilepsy. They have been shown to be effective in helping prevent migraines. Ones used to treat migraines include: Depakote (divalproex sodium); Depakene (valproic acid); Fanatrex, Gabarone, Gralise, Horizant, or Neurontin (gabapentin); and Topamax or Topiragen (topiramate).
Since several medications prevent migraines, choosing the right one can be a complex decision. Here are some things your doctor will consider:
* Other health problems you have that may influence your headaches, such as high blood pressure, asthma, depression or anxiety, seizures, obesity, or diabetes
* Whether you're pregnant or going through menopause
* Drugs you take
* Each drug's side effects
* Your preferences about the number of times a day to take meds