Which Drugs Can Keep My Migraines Away?

It's the best situation: Stop a migraine before it starts. To do that, your doctor may consider these types of prescription drugs.

Anticonvulsants. These are medicines that prevent or reduce seizures. Your doctor may recommend topiramate (Topamax) or valproic acid (Depakote) to prevent your headaches.

Beta-blockers. These relax your blood vessels. Your doctor may suggest metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL) or propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL).

Botulinum toxin (Botox). A doctor can inject small amounts around your face and scalp every 3 months to stop migraines from happening.

Calcium-channel blockers. These include diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia, Tiazac) and verapamil (Calan, Verelan). They ease the narrowing of your blood vessels.

Antidepressants. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor). Research suggests venlafaxine (Effexor XR) may be helpful in preventing migraines.

Do You Need It?

You may want to consider medicine to prevent migraines if you:

  • Have pain that hampers your life despite treatment
  • Get at least three moderate to severe headaches per month
  • Take a lot of painkillers
  • Don't get enough relief from meds you now take
  • Have side effects from your headache drugs
  • Have uncommon migraine conditions like continuing aura (blurred vision or seeing spots or wavy lines)

Preventive medicine might not be right for you if:

  • Your headaches are infrequent and controlled by anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Other health conditions keep you from taking preventive drugs.
  • Those drugs could mix badly with other medicines you take.
  • You prefer treatments that don't involve meds.

If you can't take medication or prefer not to, there's also a device you and your doctor could consider. It's called Cefaly, and it's the first FDA-approved machine that prevents migraine in people over 18. It's a portable headband-like device that you wear around your forehead. It gives out electrical impulses that stimulate a nerve connected with migraines. You'll feel a tingling sensation and should use it once a day for 20 minutes.

If You’re Pregnant

Your headaches may ease up during your second and third trimesters.

If you have severe migraines, your doctor may suggest that you first try a treatment that's not a drug -- such as biofeedback, relaxation therapy, or stress management training. He may also recommend a preventive drug that has the lowest risk possible.

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of taking preventive medications for migraine. Together, you can decide the best approach for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 12, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Neurology: "Evidence-Based Guidelines for Migraine Headache."

George R. Nissan, DO, director of research, Diamond Headache Clinic, Chicago.

FDA.

MedlinePlus: "Propranolol (Cardiovascular)," "Metoprolol."

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