Headache Home > What Are Triptans Used For?

Many people wonder, "What are triptans used for?" Triptans are used for relieving common migraine symptoms such as vision changes, throbbing pain, or nausea. In some cases, they may also be used to treat cluster headaches. Although these medications cannot prevent migraines, they can help treat symptoms that may develop during a migraine.

Triptan Uses: An Overview

Triptans are a class of prescription medications used to treat migraine headaches. Triptans will not help prevent migraines but can help to treat a migraine that is already occurring. Injectable triptans are also approved to treat cluster headaches.

Using Triptans for Migraines

Migraine headaches are different from other headaches in many ways. Some of the most common migraine symptoms include:
  • Headache pain on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Throbbing headache pain
  • Upset stomach (nausea) and vomiting
  • Unusual vision changes.
Some people may have an aura before their migraines occur. An aura can be any unusual sign that a migraine is about to happen, including vision changes, numbness, tingling, or speech changes. The most common type of aura is visual (seeing spots, tunnel vision, or other vision changes). Some people have migraine triggers, which are certain foods, drinks, or situations that seem to lead to a migraine (see Migraine Diet for more information).
Triptans are approved for migraines with or without aura. During a migraine headache, some of the blood vessels in the head become dilated (wider open than they usually are). Triptans work by narrowing these blood vessels, helping them return to their normal state. This action helps to relieve the symptoms of a migraine.
Due to the way they work, triptans will not help with migraine prevention. They are taken to lessen the pain and other symptoms of a migraine once it starts.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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