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Sumatriptan

Dr Tom Bracewell
Reviewed by Dr Tom BracewellReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Sumatriptan tablets are used to provide relief of symptoms during a migraine attack. A migraine is a severe throbbing headache that comes on suddenly and can last a few hours to days. Whilst a headache is usually the main symptom, it can have many presentations.

The headaches are usually accompanied by other symptoms. This can vary for each person but include nausea, vomiting, or having a sensitivity to light or sound. It is often eased by laying down in a dark quiet room. Migraines can also be associated with auras - these are warning signals that a migraine is about to happen. Examples of different auras include flashing lights, numbness, tingling, dizziness, or muscle weakness.

How does it work?

Migraines are not completely understood, but symptoms are thought to be linked with a widening of blood vessels in your brain. Sumatriptan works by binding to serotonin receptors, particularly the 5-HT1B and 5-HT1D receptors, which are found on blood vessels in the brain. By activating these receptors, sumatriptan causes vasoconstriction and reduces the release of inflammatory neuropeptides. This mechanism addresses the dilation and inflammation of blood vessels associated with migraines, providing relief from the throbbing pain and other symptoms.

They work differently to other migraine relief tablets, as most options contain either painkillers, antihistamines or relaxants. However, as with all migraine treatments, it is better to avoid the trigger when possible to reduce the risk of getting the migraine.

Can you buy sumatriptan tablets without a prescription?

Yes, you can buy sumatriptan tablets (at a strength of 50mg) in the brand Migraitan, as well as generic versions from your pharmacy after having a discussion with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist will ask you a series of questions, including your symptoms, allergies, and medications/medical conditions to ensure sumatriptan is the appropriate option for you.

Sumatriptan is available in various formulations, including oral tablets, nasal sprays, and injectables. The oral form undergoes rapid absorption, with best efficacy reached within one to two hours. Nasal and injectable forms offer faster onset, making them suitable for individuals seeking more immediate relief during the acute phase of a migraine attack.

For sumatriptan to be recommended, you must be aged between 18 and 65 and have a history of migraines diagnosed by your doctor. If sumatriptan is not suitable for you, then your pharmacist may refer you to your doctor for further advice or recommend an alternative more suited for you.

How do I take the medication?

Take one 50mg tablet at the first signs of a migraine attack. If your symptoms go and return, you can take a second tablet after two hours. However, you should not take more than one tablet for the same migraine attack. Also, do not take more than the recommended tablets in 24 hours. This is a similar approach in the nasal sprays as well. In some cases, patients may require sumatriptan tablets at a higher strength (100mg). These are only available on prescription.

Are there any side effects?

Some people may experience side effects. Common sumatriptan side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, aching muscles, tingling, feeling flushed, and feeling warm or cold. If you develop any bothersome side effects, you should stop taking the medication and speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

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Dr Tom Bracewell
Reviewed by Dr Tom Bracewell
Reviewed on 13.10.2023
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