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What is Sumatriptan Succinate?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Sumatriptan succinate is a medication used to treat cluster headaches and migraines, to reduce their severity and make patients feel more comfortable during episodes. It is part of a class of drugs known as triptans initially released in the 1990s. Known by brand names like Imitrex®, sumatriptan succinate is available in inhaler, tablet, and injection form for the management of headaches. Depending on the nation, some forms may be offered over the counter.

This drug works by reducing inflammation of blood vessels in the brain, addressing the pain associated with migraines. Sumatriptan succinate does not prevent or reduce the frequency of migraines, but it can help patients manage migraine pain when outbreaks occur. It interacts with the neurotransmitter serotonin, and this can potentially be a risk for patients taking other medications known to interact with serotonin, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Patients taking sumatriptan succinate should discuss the risk of bad drug reactions with their doctors, and it is advisable to go over medical history to check for any contraindications, like an existing medication that might conflict.

Immediately after taking sumatriptan succinate, people can experience a sensation of tightness in the chest, neck, and head. It is important to distinguish this normal side effect from more serious cardiac complications, which will cause chest pain and numbness and tingling along the left arm. Other sumatriptan succinate side effects can include flushing, dizziness, numbness, and drowsiness. Tingling and other strange physical sensations may also be experienced.

This drug must be taken as directed to be most effective. The injectable form is designed to be given subcutaneously, and should not be injected intramuscularly or intravenously, as this can cause potentially fatal cardiac side effects. Tablets and inhalers can take longer to act than the injection, but they will also last longer and can bring long term relief. If sumatriptan succinate is being used with other medications, it may be important to time dosages carefully and a doctor should provide specific instructions.

Allergic reactions to sumatriptan succinate are rare, but do occur. People who start to have difficulty breathing or who notice things like rapid swelling, tenderness, and discomfort around an injection site may be allergic to the drug. They should seek medical treatment, providing information about when the medication was taken and how much was administered. An alternative medication for migraine management will need to be explored if a patient has allergies, and the doctor may want to avoid other triptans because of concerns about chemical similarities.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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