How does Sumatriptan work?
Migraine occurs when blood vessels in the head widen temporarily. Sumatriptan tablets reduce the widening of the blood vessels and this helps to relieve headache and other migraine symptoms.
Who can take Sumatriptan?
Sumatriptan Actavis is for people who have been diagnosed with migraine, not for other sorts of headaches. Migraine headaches typically are throbbing and severe, and are associated with nausea vomiting and photophobia (aversion to strong light). They usually are localised to one side of the head, but not always, and are sometime preceded by symptoms such as flashing lights or other visual or sensory disturbance (aura). They usually last a few hours and then resolve, with no symptoms in between.
Who should not use Sumatriptan?
Discuss your treatment with your GP and don’t use sumatriptan without approval if any of the following apply:
- A history of fits or seizures.
- Serious liver or kidney disease.
- Over 65 years old.
- You are a heavy smoker (over 25 cigarettes/day), are a man over 40, or a woman past the menopause – you may be at extra risk of developing heart disease and may need extra checks from your GP before taking sumatriptan.
- Have had a heart attack, stroke, or mini-strokes (TIAs) in the past.
- Problems with poor circulation (peripheral vascular disease).
- Angina (heart pain on exertion).
- Irregular heart rhythm.
- You have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Taking sumatriptan with other medicines
Sumatriptan belongs to a group of medicines called triptans, and should not be taken at the same time as other triptans used to treat migraine, including naratriptan, rizatriptan, and zolmitriptan. Other migraine treatments may interact, namely ergotamine or similar medicines. Leave at least 24 hours between taking these medications and sumatriptan.
Sumatriptan should not be taken within 2 weeks of MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors antidepressants) and can interact with other antidepressants known as SSRIs, or SNRIs and herbal remedies containing St John’s Wort.
Talk to your doctor if you take any antidepressant medication.
Can sumatriptan be taken in pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding?
There is no evidence of increased risk of birth defects with sumatriptan in pregnancy, but there is only limited information. The risks and benefits of treatment should be discussed with a doctor before taking it in pregnancy.
Despite the fact that minimal amounts get into breast milk, manufacturers recommend not to breastfeed or use expressed milk within 12 hours of using sumatriptan.
Sumatriptan side effects
Do not take it if you have known allergy to other triptans, or to sulphonamide antibiotics (rarely used).
Not all people experience side effects and some symptoms may actually be caused by the migraine itself.
Common side effects with sumatriptan tablets (affecting up to 1 in 10 people) may include: aching muscles, shortness of breath, dizziness, tiredness, nausea (feeling sick), temporary increase in blood pressure.
A common side effect with the nasal spray is an unpleasant taste in the back of the mouth, and irritation in the nose and throat.
Other side effects are possible and include: seizures, visual disturbance, heart problems (angina, changes in heart rhythm, heart attack), reduced peripheral circulation (cold hands and feet), feeling faint, joint pains, anxiety, and sweating.
How to take Sumatriptan tablets
Sumatriptan tablets are not a preventative for use when there are no symptoms. They work best if taken as soon as a migraine headache is coming on, but can be taken any time after the headache has started. Do not take during the aura phase. The usual dose is one 50mg tablet, swallowed whole, but some people require the higher strength 100mg tablet. You can take a second tablet after 2 hours, but only if symptoms are continuing and have partially responded to the first tablet. The maximum dose in 24 hours is 100mg (2 x 50mg tablets).