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Medical Treatments for Headaches

by Fred Dekker / Jun 09, 2017 / category : headache / 5802 views
Medical Treatments for Headaches

Medical Treatments for Headaches

Analgesics - These are painkillers, either prescription or over-the-counter, which are prescribed to relieve headache pain. They are most effective for tension headaches and mild migraines.

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  • Over-the-counter analgesics can include acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

  • Prescription analgesics include indomethacin, naproxen, and ketorolac tromethamine.
  • Potential side effects can include digestive disturbances, ulcers, and in the case of acetaminophen, liver damage if the drug is used heavily for long periods of time.

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  • If you are using analgesics to treat chronic headache pain, you may actually be making the situation worse. Constant use of painkillers can cause what’s known as a “rebound headache” - after the painkiller wears off, the headache comes back with a vengeance.

Triptans - Triptans are a class of drugs prescribed specifically for migraines and cluster headaches, although they can also be used by people affected by both chronic migraines and chronic tension headaches. In addition to relieving headache pain, they can also help with nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms associated with migraines.

  • Triptans work by causing the over-dilated blood vessels in your brain to shrink back to normal size, normalizing the flow of blood in the brain.

  • They also prevent the release of brain chemicals that contribute to inflammation and pain.
  • Triptans can stop a migraine once it starts. Statistically speaking, they successfully stop 80% of migraine attacks.

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  • These drugs come in 3 forms: oral, injectable and a nose spray. The injections and the nose spray are the fastest-acting.
  • Potential side effects can include body aches, tiredness, dry mouth, tingling sensations, weakness and throwing up.

  • Rare, but more serious side effects can include a stroke or a heart attack. So, do not pass go and go directly to the nearest emergency room if you feel chest pain or pressure, get dizzy or have trouble breathing after taking triptans.
  • Some common triptan brand names include Imetrix, Maxalt, Amerge, Zomig, Axert, Frova, and Relpax.

Ergots - Ergots are derived from the fungus ergot, a black growth that attacks grain and in its pure form is hallucinogenic when ingested. Ergots are used like triptans, to stop a migraine headache once it starts. They are also sometimes used to treat cluster headaches.

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  • Ergots work by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain that dilate during a migraine attack, much like triptans.

  • However, they last longer in the body and have more potential to affect the heart than triptans do.
  • There are two ergot derivatives on the market today, ergotamine and dihydroergotamine. Dihydroergotamine boasts greater effectiveness and fewer side effects.

  • Side effects of ergots include upset stomach and vomiting, drowsiness and fatigue, and the potential of rebound headaches if the drugs are used too often.
  • More serious side effects like heart attack and stroke are also possible. In pregnant women, ergots should never be used as they can cause miscarriage.

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Midrin - Midrin combines a blood vessel constrictor, an analgesic and a light sedative into one package. It is effective for both migraine and tension headaches.

  • Midrin is taken orally.

  • Possible side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, rash, and withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using the drug.

Butalbital combinations -Butalbital is a sedative that is often combined with analgesics such as aspirin or acetametaphin, and sometimes caffeine or codeine. It is used for migraines and severe tension headaches.

  • These combinations are used infrequently due to side effects.

  • Side effects can include rebound headaches and withdrawal symptoms.

Oxygen Inhalation Treatment - Oxygen inhalation is used as a medical treatment for cluster headaches. Pure oxygen is inhaled through a mask for up to 10-15 minutes. This often leads to a rapid release from the grasp of a cluster headache - up to 80% of patients reported relief in trials.

As you can see, there are many different drug regimens that can be used to help treat your headaches. However, please remember that only a doctor can tell you if these medications are right for you or not.

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