If you suffer from migraine, you know how important it is to be prepared when the pain strikes. Beyond putting an ice pack over your head and lying down in a darkened room, for most people treatment involves having an arsenal of migraine medications on hand so symptoms can be treated immediately – and potentially other drugs that can prevent them from happening in the first place.
Although some over-the-counter pain relievers (such as NSAIDs) may provide some relief, many migraine sufferers rely on prescription medications designed to specifically stop migraine pain. The good news is that there are more options than ever to stop a migraine. The bad news? Navigating the world of migraine medication can be tricky, so we’ve created this simple guide to help you find relief as soon as possible.
So what is a migraine, exactly?
It’s a common misconception that migraine is “just a headache.” The reality is that migraine is a neurological disease that affects approximately 12% of people in the United States, most of whom are female at birth. In fact, people with a vagina are about three times more likely than those without to get migraines, possibly due to the hormone estrogen.1
You’ll know you have a migraine (rather than a regular headache) because it’s usually accompanied by debilitating symptoms, not just headaches. Although severe pain in the head, often on one side of the head, East a major symptom. It may feel like a throbbing, throbbing, or stabbing sensation that gets worse with physical activity. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smell.
Another defining feature, which some, but not all, migraine sufferers have is the aura. It involves visual disturbances before the onset of the attack, such as flashes of light, sparklers, wavy lines, blurred vision, or even loss of vision that usually resolves within an hour.2
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What types of migraine medications can be used for treatment?
When it comes to migraine treatment, there is good news. “Over the past 11 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved at least 13 new treatments, the highest number in any neurology subspecialty,” Nauman said. Tariq, MD, director of the headache treatment program at the Atrium Health Neurosciences Institute. Charlotte, says SELF. “The options are endless, so rather than suffer, I strongly suggest people seek help.”
Migraine medications are divided into two categories: abortifacient medications, which stop a migraine that has already started, and preventive medications, which are taken regularly (usually daily or monthly) to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine, depending on the clinic. Mayo. . “The decision to give patients abortifacient and preventative drugs is based on the number of migraine attacks the person experiences each month,” says Dr. Tariq. “There are different schools of thought, but I only give patients preventative treatment if they have eight or more migraine days a month.”
If you have less than eight migraine days per month, but still think you might benefit from preventive medication, talk to your doctor. The American Headache Society Consensus Statement 2021 actually recommends offering preventive treatment if you have migraine symptoms on six or more days per month, even without a degree of disability, four or more days per month with disability, or three or more days per month with severe disability.3
Below is a breakdown of the most common abortive and preventative treatment options.
Abortive migraine medications
Medications for acute migraine relief fall into two categories: over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and prescription medications. Here are the best options: