How do triptans help migraines?

Dr Marcus explains how the triptan class of medications can help treat migraines.

Video Transcript

How do triptans help migraines?

Triptans are a class of medication that specifically target the mechanism of migraine. During a migraine episode, blood vessels dilate around the brain. You may notice that the blood vessels in your temple become more prominent and tender to touch during a migraine. You are likely to feel a pulsing sensation as if the blood vessels become more sensitive to this increase blood flow. During this process a brain chemical called serotonin becomes more active. This results in triggering additional pain center in the brain, causing pain over your head and face.

Triptans work by directly targeting these receptors, the expanded blood vessels, and serotonin activity. Within about 30 to 60 minutes of taking your triptan your brain sensitivity to pain will decrease and you will probably begin to notice a decrease in migraine symptoms including pain, sensitivity to noise, light and nausea.

So remember triptans offer more than simply pain relief. Triptans specifically and directly target the mechanism of migraine resulting in more complete relief of all your migraine symptoms than just a simple pain reliever.

It is important to remember that not every medication will work for everyone. Please be sure to discuss treatment options, including potential side effects, with your physician.


If you are interested to learn more about the triptan class of medications, including formulations, side effects, and important safety information, read the triptans overview.

You can also find detailed information on individual brands of triptans by following the links below. Each page provides results from clinical studies, including efficacy and most common side effects.

  1. Imitrex (Sumatriptan)
  2. Zomig (Zolmitriptan)
  3. Maxalt (Rizatriptan)
  4. Relpax (Eletriptan)
  5. Treximet (Sumatriptan and Naproxen Sodium Tablets)
  6. Amerge (Naratriptan)
  7. Frova (Frovatriptan)
  8. Axert (Almotriptan)
  9. Sumavel DosePro (sumatriptan)

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