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Is My Headache a Migraine?
Symptoms of Migraine Headaches
Screening and Diagnosis for Migraines
Treatment Options for Migraines
What is The Treatment for Moderate or Severe Migraines?
Alternative Ways for Treating Migraines
How Can You Prevent or Avoid Migraines?
What Are Migraine Triggers?
Prophylactic Medications to Reduce or Avoid Migraines
Types of Migraines
Cryotherapy:  Ice Relief for Migraine Headaches
An Optical Migraine FAQ
Migraines and Pregnancy
The Art of Massaging Migraine Headaches
Migraine Headaches and the Weather
Menstrual Migraines
Migraines and the Smoking Connection
Well-Known Migraine Triggers
The Migraine-Aspartame Connection
Stress & the Migraine Sufferer
Sexually-Triggered Migraines
Eye Problems & Migraines
Fragrance Migraine Triggers
Treating Menstrual Migraines
Migraine Treatment:  A Natural Approach

What is The Treatment for Moderate or Severe Migraines?

When a person experiences moderate or severe migraine headaches, a doctor often recommends migraine-specific abortive medicines. These abortive medicines are different from OTC analgesics.Rather than relieving pain, they abort the headaches through a process of counteracting the headache's cause--dilation of the person's temporal arteries. Triptans and ergot preparations are the two best-known migraine-specific abortive medicines.

Triptans attach to the person's serotonin receptors on nerves and blood vessels, thus reducing inflammation and constricting blood vessels. This process stops the headache. Sumatriptan (or "Imitrex") is the triptan that has the longest history. It's available in the U.S.as an oral tablet, nasal spray or injection. Zolmitriptan and rizatriptan are more recently developed triptans that can be obtained in pill form or as a melt-in-the-mouth tablet. Also, almotriptan, naratriptan and frovatriptan can only be obtained as oral tablets.

In the past, triptans have been prescribed for moderate and severe headaches once it was discovered that OTC analgesics and other measures were not working. However, in more recent times, triptans have been used as a first treatment for those with debilitating migraines. If you're using triptans, they should be taken early once the migraine starts and if possible, before the pain gets very severe. The early in the attack that a triptan is used, the more effective it will be. Used early enough, triptans can abort 80 percent of migraines within two hours.

There are, however, some side effects associated with triptans. These include tingling of the skin, facial flushing, tightness around the throat and chest, drowsiness, dizziness, and fatigue. These side effects are almost always short-lived and are not serious.

Symptoms which are obviously more serious are strokes and heart attacks. The effectiveness of triptans comes from the fact that they narrow arteries located in the head--but unfortunately they might also narrow arteries located in the heart. If an individual already has an existing coronary or carotid artery disease, this could reduce blood-flow and lead to possible stroke or heart attack. For this reason, triptans should never be used by patients with a history of stroke or heart attack or patients with symptoms of atherosclerosis. Talk with your doctor to learn more.Triptans should also not be used by pregnant women or children. Like triptans, ergots are medicines which abort migraines.Some examples include Wigraine, Ergomar, Cafergot, Migranal, and DH-45. As with triptans, ergots cause the blood vessels to constrict, however ergots cause even more constrictions of vessels located in the heart than triptans do--plus they have a more prolonged effect on these heart vessels. This makes them riskier to use than triptans. They also are more likely to cause nausea and vomiting.

Last, midrin is a medication used to abort both migraine and tension headaches. It's actually a combination of acetaminophen (the pain reliever round in Tylenol), isomethetene (a drug which constricts the blood vessels) and dichloralphenazone (a sedative). It works best when used early during the onset of the headache. However, it's not recommended for those with high blood pressure because of how it constricts the blood vessels. Those with kidney disease, atherosclerosis, glaucoma, and liver disease likewise should not take it.

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