Did you know some medications can even aggravate a migraine? Learn ways to track your meds and avoid the triggering symptoms.
There are different types of medications-some of them you might take for some other condition-that can ultimately lead to, or even aggravate, a headache or migraine.
The best approach is to work with your pharmacist and doctor to figure out the drugs triggering your headaches. Start by using a headache diary, medication tracker, or calendar to keep track of all the medicines you’re taking.
People with vision issues or those who have some difficulty reading can take help of a simple color-coded chart with a list of all important medicines, each of which is labeled with a distinct color for easy recognition. Use colored markers or sticky colored labels to perfectly match your medication bottles with this chart. You can then check off the colored blocks when you take your medicine. Tracking your medicine intake will definitely help your doctor in ascertaining the cause of your headache. Bottom of Form
In a survey, the National Headache Foundation found that 87 percent of migraineurs also have few other health conditions, which means they are taking some kind of medications to control those conditions too. The most common co-occurring conditions are anxiety disorder, depression, asthma, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.
First, Make a detailed List of Medicines you take
“Be frank and tell your doctor about medicines you’re taking, since most people approach primary care doctor instead of headache specialist or a neurologist,” says Seymour Diamond, MD, executive chairman of the National Headache Foundation, director of the Inpatient Headache Unit at Saint Joseph Hospital, and the founder of Diamond Headache Clinic, all in Chicago. “Sometimes doctors who don’t handle headache patients don’t have a clear idea on the concept of effects of other medications or combinations on migraineur. But, usually any headache doctor that handles difficult cases will be able to help migraine patients identify which medications are causing your headaches.
Dr. Diamond feels that migraineurs should understand that some drugs can be typical migraine triggers, such as:
- Birth control pills or hormone therapy pills
- Stimulants (any kind), such as diet pills
- Asthma medications
- Drugs that contain nitrates, such as hypertension medications. Nitrates may increase vasodilation (swelling in blood vessels), which may trigger migraine attacks.
“Few cardiac medicines, especially the ones related to nitroglycerin, nitrates, or even nitro patch to address angina can also precipitate migraine,” Diamond feels. “It’s best to maintain a diary to track down the drugs you take and the symptoms they create, and then get in touch with your doctor because there might be few medications that may be more suitable as a substitute.”
With active assistance of your doctor, it will be easy for you to find alternative drugs to properly manage your other medical conditions as well.
Opioids and Barbituates: A Strong Warning
A study published recently in the journal Headache has found that migraineurs who overuse barbiturates and opiods, including codeine, butalbital, and oxycodone, for treating their headache are actually at risk of developing chronic migraine (having migraine for 15 or more days in a month).
In this study, researchers surveyed more than 8,200 people suffering from episodic migraines (getting migraines less than 15 days in a month). Among this group, people who took medications for more than eight days in a month were three times as likely to develop chronic migraines 6 months to one year later, compared to others who didn’t take any drugs. The researchers commented that migraineurs set limits on the amount of barbiturates and opioids they take to treat their pain.
It’s possible to break the cycle by stopping the use of barbiturates and opioids. You may feel your headache is unbearable for four to five days, and sometimes you may have vomiting and nausea. But once this period is over, the symptoms will start improving.
On the other hand, some migraine medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g ibuprofen) and triptans, rarely increase the risk of developing chronic migraines.
For effective migraine prevention, you need to pay special attention to your medications-even when you are taking them for other conditions, or simple main medications like oxycodone that can easily make your migraines worse.