Sumatriptan belongs to a group of medicines called serotonin receptor (5-HT1) agonists. It's a painkiller specifically used to relieve migraine attacks.

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A migraine is a moderate to severe recurring headache, usually affecting only one side of the head.  It can be characterized by a sharp/throbbing pain and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and a sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraine is a common health condition which usually starts in adulthood.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 15 men suffer from migraines.  The frequency of migraines vary between patients, with some suffering several attacks per week and others going years between each attack.  

Migraines can be classed as - 

  • an attack with an aura - warning signs such as flashing lights before an attack occurs.
  • an attack without an aura - no warning signs efore an attack starts
  • silent migraine - all the warning signs but no headache develops.

If your symptoms are severe and are occuring frequently (more than five attacks per month), you should see your GP as soon as possible.

If you experience any of the following symptoms then you should call 999 immediately - 

  • A severe blinding pain unlike anything experienced before which came on all of a sudden.
  • Any form of paralysis one one or both sides of the body
  • Slurred speech
  • stiff neck, rash, confusion, double vision or seizure.

It is important to rule out other more serious conditions such as a stroke or meningitis.

The exact cause of migraines is not known.  Approximately half of those who suffer from migraines also have a relative who suffers from them which would suggest a genetic component.

Many triggers have been linked with migraine attacks.  Some of these include - 

  • Emotional triggers - stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
  • Physical triggers - tiredness, poor quality sleep, low blood sugar, intense exercise, etc.
  • Dietary triggers - alcohol, caffeine, dehydration, etc.  Also specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits, etc.
  • Environmental triggers - bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, etc.
  • certain medication can also bring on a migraine e.g. contraceptives.

While there's currently no cure for migraine, there are a number of treatments that can help control the symptoms associated with migraines.

Many people find simple painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or over the counter low dose co-codamol sufficient in relieving the symptoms when they present.  Triptans, such as imigran, have proven to be an effective treatment where simple analgesia has not worked.  This class of drugs affect the brain chemistry which is thought to be altered when a migraine attack occurs.  Often an anit-emetic to help relive nausea and vomitting is also needed.

Patients also find it helpful by lying in a dark room and if possible going to sleep.

NHS Choices website provides useful information and guidance