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What is Imigran®?

By Jennifer Long
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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Imigran® is a prescription medication used to treat migraine headaches. Sold under the brand name Imitrex® in the United States, this medication has sumatriptan as the active ingredient. Sumatriptan, also known as triptan, is a serotonin agonist. Serotonin agonists are migraine treatments that mimic the body’s natural responses to serotonin production in the brain.

Scientists and doctors do not understand everything about the brain and migraine attacks. Research shows that most migraine headaches occur when blood vessels in the brain widen. Imigran® helps the blood vessels return to normal size. Reversing the widening of the blood vessels will stop migraines from continuing.

The brain has serotonin receptors called 5HT receptors. These receptors regulate the effects of serotonin produced by the body. Sumatriptan medicines, such as Imigran®, are migraine treatments that work with these receptors. The medication stimulates the response of the receptors in the same manner as serotonin, tricking them into responding.

Migraines can be very difficult to deal with when they occur. They cause a strong throbbing pain, but there are also other symptoms. Migraine attacks also affect the sympathetic nervous system, which can lead to symptoms in other areas of the body, such as nausea and cold feet or hands. Imigrain® is designed to combat most of the additional symptoms that accompany a migraine.

Treatments for migraines and migraine prevention are two different types of medications. Preventative medications are often prescribed for people who suffer from regular migraine attacks, and should be used in conjunction with a treatment medication, such as Imigran®. The preventative medicine is generally taken once daily. Migraine treatments, on the other hand, are taken with each migraine headache that occurs.

The dosage of Imigran® prescribed will vary depending on the severity of the headaches and how well the patient responds to treatment. This medication should be taken at the earliest part of an attack, but it not always possible to catch the onset of a migraine headache. It can be taken at any point during a migraine headache, and will usually still be effective.

Side effects of Imigran® are minimal. The most common effects that can occur is tingling or minor discomfort of the nasal area. This migraine treatment is not known to cause drowsiness for most people, but it is a possibility to be aware of. Immediate medical care is necessary if certain side effects are experienced, such as an irregular heart beat, chest pain, or trouble breathing.

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Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 19, 2011

@Oceana - I get those, too! I have never met another person who gets them, and people usually think I’m nuts when I tell them these episodes are actually migraines without the pain.

I did visit my doctor the first time it happened. He told me that it would likely resolve itself in half an hour or so, but in case it didn’t, he gave me some Imigran®. I was grateful to have a backup plan.

The next time I experienced one, I simply waited it out. Within twenty-five minutes, it dissipated, and my vision returned to normal.

I got another one about a week later while sitting at my computer at work. I had to take a break, because I could not see the words that I was typing on the screen. I literally could not read.

After thirty-five minutes of partial blindness, I felt it was time to take the Imigran®. I swallowed the pill, and about fifteen minutes later, my vision started to return. Five minutes after that, I could read again.

By Oceana — On Aug 19, 2011

My dad and I sometimes experience migraines but not in headache form. Our eyesight is affected. Had his doctor not told him that this phenomenon was a migraine, I would have seriously thought I was going blind when it happened to me.

I was removing my nail polish at around midnight, so my parents were asleep. Suddenly, I could not see my nails out of my right eye. All I could see were purple spots, and even when I shut my eyes, I still saw them.

I woke up my mom crying and told her, “I can’t see!” She freaked out at first, but when I described to her what was happening, she told me that it was just like my dad’s migraines that his eye doctor diagnosed as such.

By orangey03 — On Aug 18, 2011

I have never personally experienced a migraine headache, but my mother battled them for years. She missed so much work that she eventually just quit. She thought she would never recover.

She would take Imigran® to relieve them once they occurred, but it made her sleepy, so she could not take it at work. Her doctor eventually put her on a preventative medicine that kept them from coming back.

Today, she still keeps Imigran® around just in case she gets another headache. From what I can tell by her behavior during one, it is extremely painful and renders you immobile.

By wander — On Aug 17, 2011

@manykitties2 - As I understand it you can't actually take more serotonin, you can just take things that stimulate your own body to make more of it. Serotonin is made in the brain, and is generally known as the happiness chemical.

For a lot of people taking up a bit of exercise everyday and getting a pet can really help to boost their serotonin level. Being calm and relaxed actually makes you even happier in the long run. It seems as though the happiness chemicals get their biggest boost from being happy.

While I am sure that a drug like Imigran can be effective, perhaps more people should try to naturally up their serotonin levels to help with migraines.

By manykitties2 — On Aug 17, 2011

I wish I had known about Imigran when I was younger, as I used to have the worst migraines that would last for days. Sometimes my headaches would get so bad that I literally couldn't look at a light without crying, the pain was so intense.

My doctor at the time gave me some prescription pain killers, but they could only do so much. More than anything they usually just ended up putting me to sleep.

I guess as scientists begin to better understand the brain the more effective our pills will be. I wonder if other products that naturally contain serotonin could help people with migraines?

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