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What is Imitrex®?

By Elle Jay
Updated May 17, 2024
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Imitrex® is the brand name of the drug sumatriptan, which is a migraine headache treatment. The drug was a breakthrough migraine medicine when introduced in 1991, and it is still one of the most commonly used headache treatment drugs. It treats the symptoms of migraines, but it does not cure or prevent the severe headaches from occurring.

Migraines affect many people worldwide, coming on unexpectedly and bringing debilitating symptoms. Most migraine sufferers report it as a chronic problem that can occur at any time. Symptoms include severe, throbbing pain in the head accompanied by nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Most migraine victims cannot function normally during a migraine episode, and Imitrex® helps by relieving the symptoms and getting sufferers back on their feet.

Although an exact cause of migraine headaches is unknown, experts believe it has to do with an expansion in the blood vessels located in the brain. Sumatriptan belongs to a group of drugs known as triptans, or selective serotonin receptor agonists. Triptans work on the neurotransmitter serotonin and cause constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, thereby eliminating the painful symptoms of a migraine headache.

In most developed countries, sumatriptan is available only by prescription, but there is an over-the-counter product sold in the United Kingdom. Imitrex® can be taken at home via nasal spray or tablets, or administered by a doctor via injection. Doctors generally prescribe sumatriptan pills in dosages from 50 mg to 200 mg, depending on the severity of the problem. Drug literature warns against taking more than 200 mg of Imitrex® in tablet form or 40 mg in nasal spray form in any 24-hour period.

Sumatriptan should be taken as soon as the first symptoms of a migraine are noticed. The commonly recommended dosage is one tablet at the onset of the headache. For nasal administration, dosing is one spray in only one nostril. As with most prescription medications, Imitrex® should only be taken under medical care, and the exact recommendations of a doctor or pharmacist should be followed. Migraine medicine should never be shared or taken more frequently than required.

Drowsiness is one of the most common side effects of taking sumatriptan, and it can be compounded when combined with alcohol. Other side effects include lightheadedness, mild diarrhea, upset stomach, vomiting, and muscle cramping. Severe reactions to sumatriptan can include pain and tightness in the chest, breathing trouble, swelling or itching of the face, lips, or eyes, blurry or distorted vision, and skin rash or hives. If a severe reaction occurs, a doctor or emergency service should be contacted immediately.

Migraine headache treatment can work wonders in relieving the disruptive symptoms of chronic migraines; however, medications like Imitrex® can invite severe problems for patients with certain health problems. Those suffering form heart or blood disorders may be negatively impacted by this migraine medicine. People at risk for heart disease may have to be monitored by a physician during their initial dose of Imitrex®.

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