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What is Ergotamine Tartrate?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ergotamine tartrate is a prescription medication used to treat certain types of migraines and headache disorders. The drug works by constricting blood vessels in the brain, which eases acute headache symptoms and helps prevent impending migraines. Ergotamine tartrate tablets often contain caffeine as well to enhance vasoconstrictor effects. A number of potentially dangerous side effects can occur when taking the drug, and it is important to report any negative reactions to a doctor to avoid health problems and ensure positive results. Most people who use ergotamine tartrate at the first signs of a migraine experience significant relief and fewer severe episodes.

Many types of migraines are thought to arise due to sharp increases blood circulation in certain parts of the brain. Vasoconstrictors, such as ergotamine tartrate and caffeine, combat spikes in blood circulation by stimulating the release of the neurotransmitters epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. As a direct result, vascular smooth muscle tissue surrounding veins and arteries contracts. Blood vessels quickly constrict and blood flow is reduced dramatically.

The standard dose of ergotamine tartrate is one to two milligrams combined with 100 milligrams of caffeine. Tablets are designed to be placed underneath the tongue to fully dissolve. A rectal suppository is also available for people who do not tolerate oral drugs well. Doctors strongly caution against using more than one tablet at at time or exceeding five dosages in a single week to prevent overdose. If more of the drug is taken than prescribed, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attacks become real concerns.

Ergotamine tartrate usually works best when it is taken as soon as a person realizes that he or she is going to have a migraine. After taking the medication, it is possible to further reduce the chances of a painful episode by lying down in a dark, quiet room, and taking a nap if possible. With the prescribing doctor's approval, another tablet can be taken after about two hours if symptoms do not seem to improve.

Common side effects associated with ergotamine tartrate include nausea, stomach upset, and vomiting. It is possible to experience muscle contractions in the legs, arms, or neck that result in temporary weakness or stiffness. A person may also suffer more serious side effects, such as a rapid heart rate, chest pains, breathing difficulties, or numbness in the extremities. Medical care should be sought immediately if complications arise after taking the drug.

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