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Different types of migraine treatment
Sumatriptan is taken to relieve the symptoms of a migraine as it starts. It is a tablet that comes as a dose of 50mg or 100mg. You should take a tablet as soon as you start to feel any symptoms of a migraine. If the symptoms clear up but then come back again you can take another tablet, as long as it is at least 2 hours later. You should not use more than 2 doses in 24 hours, and you should not take another dose if your symptoms do not clear up after the first dose.
Imigran Nasal Spray
Imigran Nasal Spray also contains sumatriptan, but it is in a spray form. It can be helpful if your migraine makes you feel sick, as you do not need to swallow a tablet. You should use 1 spray of 20mg when you notice any symptoms starting.
Maxalt Melt contains rizatriptan, which is similar to sumatriptan. Maxalt Melt tablets are dissolved on your tongue and should not be swallowed. This means they are also helpful if you feel sick when you have migraine symptoms.
This migraine treatment is made to help stop you feeling or being sick when you have a migraine. It is not available online and only currently available in store. Buccastem M is a pill that you dissolve in your mouth. You can take 1 or 2 pills a day. You cannot take Buccastem M for more than 2 days at a time. You should take it after eating food.
Nobody really knows for sure what causes a migraine. Brain activity that changes the nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels in your brain are all thought to be causes. It is possible that the condition has a genetic cause, meaning it sometimes runs in families.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is a headache that causes a strong, throbbing pain to one side of your head. A migraine can also make you feel or be sick. They can also make you very sensitive to bright light and loud sounds.
Migraine is a common condition and affects around 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men. Most people with the condition start to get symptoms in their teens or early 20s.
Some people get a warning symptom of migraine called an ‘aura’.
These warning signs include:
- seeing flashing lights or patterns
- getting pins and needles that move from your hand to your arm, face, lips, and tongue
- feeling dizzy
- fainting (rare symptom)
Some people only get migraine aura and do not get a resulting headache.
Causes and triggers
There are a lot of different things that can start or ‘trigger’ a migraine. This is often different for different people.
Common triggers of a migraine are:
- hormonal changes
- emotional (like getting stressed)
- physical (like being tired)
- your diet
- the environment (things like light and sound)
Migraine symptoms can be different for everybody. You might experience some, or all, of these symptoms:
- headaches or throbbing on 1 or both sides of your head
- painful neck or face
- feeling or being sick
- finding light or sound uncomfortable
- feeling clammy or sweating
- not being able to concentrate
- feeling hot or cold
- stomach pains
A migraine does not always mean you will get a headache. Some people get migraine symptoms without a headache coming on at all.
You can get paracetamol and ibuprofen over the counter. These can help to make the symptoms of a migraine better if they are mild. Some medicines that stop you from feeling sick can also be bought over the counter.
If you have a moderate or severe migraine, over the counter medicines might not work. Our service offers doctor approved prescription medicines that you can order online and have delivered to your door. Or, we can send your treatment to your chosen Asda Pharmacy for you to collect at a time that suits you.
Common side effects
You may experience side effects when you take migraine medication. If the side effects seem serious or last for a long time you should speak to your doctor.
Common side effects include:
- feeling warm
- tightness in your chest
- tingling feelings
- feeling flushed
- a heavy feeling in your face, chest, arms, or legs
- burning in the nose or throat (only with nasal sprays)
- nosebleeds (only with nasal sprays)
- bruising (only with injections)
- bleeding (only with injections)
Rare side effects
If you have any of the following you should not take any more of your medicine and contact your doctor. If you are worried about these symptoms, you should seek medical help.
Rare side effects include:
- tightness or tingling in your face, arm, legs, or chest
- feeling very heavy in your face, arms, legs, or chest
- feeling flushed in your face, arms, legs, or chest
You should tell your doctor before taking migraine medication if you have ever had an allergic reaction to medication in the past. Very rarely, people can get a severe allergic reaction to migraine medicines. If this happens call 999 or go to A&E straight away.
Not everybody can take medicines for a migraine. When you have registered for an account with us our doctors can check to see if your chosen migraine medication is safe for you to take.
Migraine medication might not be safe for you to take if you have:
- had an allergic reaction to medicines in the past
- a heart problem
- circulation problems in your legs
- had a stroke or mini-stroke
- liver disease
- epilepsy, seizures, or fits
- high blood pressure
It may also not be safe for you if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding. You may also be advised not to use migraine medication if you are a heavy smoker or are using nicotine replacement therapy like patches, gum, or lozenges.
You should avoid rich and spicy foods if you have a migraine, especially if you feel or get sick. You should also drink plenty of water as this will stop you from getting dehydrated.
Self-help and painkillers
If you are in the middle of a migraine attack it might help to lie down in a dark room. If you feel sick, eating a small amount of food can help. Over the counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen may help too, if you only get mild migraine symptoms.
Using painkillers all the time can also make a migraine worse. If you get them a lot, you can speak to one of our doctors for advice on the safest medicine for you.
If you are not able to use medicines for migraine, acupuncture might help to make your symptoms go away. You might have to pay for acupuncture privately.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMC)
This is a new treatment that has been approved for migraine in the UK. TMC delivers a small electrical pulse to your skin. Although studies have shown that it can reduce the symptoms of a migraine it does not work for everybody. You will need to see a specialist for this type of treatment.
Migraine is a complicated condition that is not well understood. It can help to keep a diary to work out what causes migraine attacks. Your triggers (what causes your migraine) might be very different to other people. Keeping a diary might help to work out what starts a migraine for you, which can help you to avoid these things.
Dr Kathryn Basford
Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.Meet our doctors
Article created: 01 Sep 2021
Last reviewed: 01 Sep 2021
Buccastem M patient information leaflet (2020) EMC [accessed 10/08/2021]
Imigran patient information leaflet (2020) EMC [accessed 10/08/2021]
Maxalt patient information leaflet (2020) EMC [accessed 10/08/2021]
Migraine (2016) Brain&Spine Foundation [accessed 11/08/2021]
Migraine headache (2021) NCBI [accessed 11/08/2021]