Headache Home > Triptans

Triptans are a type of medication used for the treatment of migraine headaches. Although they cannot prevent migraines, these medicines can help relieve symptoms by narrowing blood vessels in the head that become dilated during a migraine. Triptans should be taken as soon as you have a migraine and are available in various forms. Side effects will vary, depending on the specific form, but may include nausea, drowsiness, dry mouth, or flushing.

What Are Triptans?

Triptans are a class of prescription medications used to treat migraine headaches. They will not prevent migraines, but can help to treat a migraine that is already occurring. Some triptans (the ones available in injectable forms) are also approved to treat cluster headaches.
 
(Click What Are Triptans Used For? for more information on specific uses, along with possible off-label uses.)
 

How Do Triptans Work?

Triptans (also known as 5-HT agonists) work to relieve migraine symptoms. During a migraine headache, some of the blood vessels in the head become dilated (open wider than they usually are). Triptans work by narrowing these blood vessels, helping them return to their normal state. This action helps to relieve migraine symptoms.
 

When and How Do I Take Them?

Some general considerations for when and how to take triptans include the following:
 
  • Triptans are meant to be taken during a migraine or cluster headache. Take your medication as soon as possible when you have a migraine or cluster headache.
     
  • Most of these medications are taken by mouth, but some are available as injections, skin patches, or nasal sprays. Some triptans come as orally disintegrating tablets that dissolve rapidly in the mouth.
     
  • Sometimes, your healthcare provider may suggest a second dose after waiting a certain period if your migraine does not go away.
     
  • For triptans to work properly, they must be taken as prescribed.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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