Sumatriptan is a type of medication known as a serotonin agonist. It is prescribed to treat migraines headache symptoms with or without aura and cluster headaches. Symptoms of migraine headaches may include severe, throbbing pain accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound and sometimes nausea. It is available as an oral tablet both brand and generic names. It often comes as an injectable solution, nasal spray or nasal powder.
Migraine is a recurring type of headache that causes severe pain often on one side of the head. It’s a neurological condition with multiple symptoms such as nausea, difficulty speaking, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound and numbness or tingling. Headache is only one symptom of migraine which can range in severity and may last anywhere from a few hours to several days. The exact cause of migraine is unknown but it appears that migraine headaches may be caused by changes in the body’s level of a chemical known as serotonin. This chemical plays an important role in the body. When the level of serotonin is high, the blood vessel shrinks and when it falls the blood vessels swell. The swelling of the blood vessel is what causes the pain.
Sumatriptan is an inexpensive drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 1991 to treat acute migraine headaches in adults. It acts on the serotonin receptors in the blood vessels in the brain. This blocks the pain pathway and prevents the blood vessels from narrowing thus relieving migraine symptoms.
Sumatriptan is available in 50mg and 100mg tablets for you to take by mouth. The typical recommended dose is 25mg to 100mg and the maximum recommended dose is 200mg within 24 hours. If the first dose will not help relieve your headache do not take another dose for the same attack. However, if your initial dose relieves your headache but it then comes back, you can take your second dose two hours after your first dose.
When and How to Use Sumatriptan
Take this drug as soon as possible after the migraine attack has started. Swallow the tablet whole with plenty of water. You may take this with or without food. Take it exactly as directed. Do not take more or less than what is instructed to you by your physician.
What to know before taking Sumatriptan
- This drug is not suitable for the following:
- People with poor blood circulation
- People with severe liver damage
- People with uncontrolled high blood pressure
- People who have had a stroke or a mini-stroke
- People who have taken MAOI or monoamine-oxidase inhibitor antidepressant in the last 14 days
- People who suffer from angina pectoris, who have an irregular heartbeat or who have had a heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, coronary heart disease, transient ischemic attack
- People with bowel disease
- A lower dose is needed for people with”
- Liver or kidney problems
- Elderly people
- Mild raised blood pressure or hypertension or uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Recent use of another triptan
- Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
- History of seizure such as those with epilepsy
- Risk factors for heart attack such as diabetes, high cholesterol level, obesity, smoking
- Do not exceed your recommended dose. The maximum recommended dose is 200mg a day.
- If your headache does not get better even after taking Sumatriptan call your doctor right away.
- Sumatriptan has been associated with blood vessel spasm and cardiovascular events which can cause serious consequences including stroke and heart attack.
- Serotonin syndrome may occur if you will take Sumatriptan along with anti-depressants.
- Do not use this drug in preventing cluster headaches or migraine attacks. This drug will help relieve migraine symptoms once they’ve started. Do not also take this during the aura phase because it won’t prevent the headache from developing.
Possible Side Effects of Sumatriptan
Common side effects may include:
- Feeling cold or warm
- Chest pain, pain in the jaw, neck or throat
- Tingling or prickling sensation in the skin
Serious side effects are:
- Visual problems
- Heart problems such as severe chest pain, palpitation, irregular heartbeat, heart attack
- Stroke, brain hemorrhage
- Serotonin syndrome with symptoms such as confusion, agitation, big pupils, shaking, sweating
- Change in mental health with signs like hallucination, confusion, agitation and thoughts of suicide
- Chest tightness, heaviness, pressure or pain
In case of serious side effects. Seek medical help as soon as possible.
Getting the Best Result from Sumatriptan
- Sumatriptan is most effective when taken at the start of the pain.
- Do not take this medication more often or longer than the recommended time or else your headache may get worse or frequently occur.
- Do not take this drug for more than 10 days in a month. If you need to take this more often, inform your doctor.
- Before taking Sumatriptan tell your doctor if you are allergic to Sumatriptan or any other medications. Do not take this if you have taken other selective serotonin agonist medication in the past 24 hours.
- Inform your doctor if you are taking prescription and non-prescription medications, nutritional supplements, vitamins and herbal products if you plan to take Sumatriptan for your migraine attacks.
- Sumatriptan is a pregnancy C category drug. It may be prescribed by a doctor to pregnant women but with caution. If you are pregnant and you wish to take this drug for your headache attack inform your doctor.
- This drug is generally effective and safe for treating moderate to severe migraine episodes. It is advised that you try first the over-the-counter medication for your condition before you resolve to take prescription strength-drugs like Sumatriptan.
If this drug works for you, keep track of how many tablets you are using every month. If you are using at least two tablets/ doses in a week on a regular basis, then you should discuss this with your doctor and look for migraine prevention strategies. Remember that migraine prevention is safer and much easier than to constantly trying to treat them.