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Dr. Sarah Donald
Dr. Sarah Donald Clinical Lead

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What is Sumatriptan?

Sumatriptan is a medication used to treat acute migraines. You should only take this treatment if a diagnosis of migraines has first been made by a medical professional. If you have been diagnosed, you are likely to have experienced repeated episodes of the condition over several years.

Sumatriptan helps to alleviate symptoms associated with acute migraines, such as a painful throbbing headache, nausea and visual disturbances.

How does Sumatriptan treat migraines?

The precise cause of migraines is not yet known. Your brain does not possess pain receptors; rather, it processes pain signals from other areas of the body. However, serotonin (a chemical found in the brain) is believed to play an important role.

Medical research suggests that migraine symptoms are caused by blood vessels widening within the head. Sumatriptan helps these blood vessels to return to their normal size, alleviating symptoms. These tablets also prevent pain signals from reaching your brain.

How do I use Sumatriptan?

When taking any medication, you should follow the advice of your doctor as well as the guidelines listed in the patient leaflet. Instructions for taking Sumatriptan are as follows:

  • take one tablet as soon as a migraine begins
  • swallow the tablet whole with a sip of water
  • tablets can be taken with or without food
  • 50mg is the recommended dose, though you may be prescribed 100mg
  • do not exceed the maximum dosage of 300mg within 24 hours
  • avoid taking a second tablet if the first does not effectively alleviate your migraine
  • you can take a second tablet if the migraine returns (after a minimum of two hours)
  • contact your doctor immediately if you take too many tablets in a single sitting, or exceed the daily recommended dose

Painkillers are also safe to use alongside Sumatriptan, provided you have not experienced adverse reactions to these in the past.

What dosages are available?

Sumatriptan is available in two different dosages; 50mg and 100mg. Your doctor will most likely prescribe the 50mg dosage to start and, depending on how you respond, may increase this to the 100mg dosage. These tablets are generally referred to by the name of their active ingredient. However, some brand medications also contain Sumatriptan in smaller quantities.

What are the possible side effects?

All prescription medication poses a risk of side effects. Commonly reported side effects of Sumatriptan include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • sensory disturbances (such as hypoaesthesia or paraesthesia)
  • nausea/vomiting
  • a feeling of heaviness (most often in your chest or throat)
  • myalgia
  • fatigue
  • hot/cold sensations
  • vomiting

You should inform your doctor if you experience any of these for a protracted period. For a detailed list of side effects, please consult the patient leaflet.

What precautions should I take?

Children, adolescents and pregnant/nursing women should not take Sumatriptan.

If you are aged over 65, you should only use this medication when advised to by a medical professional.

Do not use Sumatriptan if you have:

  • had a heart attack or stroke
  • angina or an irregular heartbeat
  • poor circulation
  • high blood pressure (uncontrolled)
  • significant issues with your liver
  • are allergic to any of the ingredients

If you are prone to any of the following types of migraine, you should also not use Sumatriptan:

  • ophthalmoplegic migraine
  • hemiplegic migraine
  • basilar migraine

Similarly, avoid these tablets if you have taken other migraine medication or medications containing triptan recently.

You should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if you experience drowsiness as a result of taking Sumatriptan.

Do not take Sumatriptan if you have also had a monoamine oxidase inhibitor medicine (MAOI) within the past two weeks. These might include:

  • antidepressants (phenelzine, isocarboxazid or tranylcypromine)
  • antibiotics (linezolid)
  • medication for Parkinson's disease (selegiline)

In rare cases, Sumatriptan can cause serotonin syndrome when taken alongside medications that increase the activity of serotonin. These include SSRIs, SNRIs, lithium, tramadol, dapoxetine and St John's wort.

Treatment Information
Treatment Information
Product Name: Sumatriptan
Active Ingredient(s): Sumatriptan
Manufacturer: Teva Pharmaceuticals
Description: Sumatriptan is a medication prescribed for the relief of symptoms of migraine attacks, such as headache, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound
Exemption: Subject to medical prescription
Administration: Oral
Presentation: Tablets
Available Dosage: 50/100 mg
Application: Adults suffering from migraines
Posology: Consult patient leaflet
Drug class: Selective serotonin receptor agonists
Alcohol consumption: Avoid alcohol consumption
When breastfeeding: Not recommended, ask your doctor for alternatives
When pregnant: Not recommended, ask your doctor for alternatives
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