My Experience with Triptans for Migraine

By Sarina

Triptans. What are they?

Triptans are a class of medications most commonly used as abortive relief for migraine and cluster headache. For many migraineurs, triptans are their go-to rescue meds and can successfully beat down a migraine. There are multiple triptans that can be tried, with different types being more or less effective depending on the individual.

When my migraine disease first became chronic, I was given Imitrex, also known as Sumatriptan, as a rescue med option. A side effect noted with Imitrex as well as other triptans is the feeling of your skin and scalp burning. While this side effect is considered less common, it is the primary side effect I experience whenever taking any triptan.

While triptans would help relieve some of my migraine pain, the feeling of my head burning was so severe I would end up crying even more, which of course only amplified my migraine symptoms. My neurologist and my family found out pretty quickly that triptans were not my cup of tea, and would likely never be.

Triptans being eliminated from my possible rescue med list eliminated a lot of my options that my neurologist deemed “most successful” from his years of experience. Alternative rescue meds that I have tried and still take today can easily trigger rebound headaches or medication overuse headaches (MOH) due to the ingredients.

Let’s flash forward multiple years to earlier this year, February 2019. My chronic migraine became daily once again and no treatments were helping. My neurologist and his team were at a loss. It was proposed to me that I could try a different triptan than before and see if it broke my never-ending migraine cycle. I was extremely hesitant due to past experiences with Imitrex going horribly wrong. However, I was getting desperate.

At this point in time (now early March 2019) I had been dealing with the same migraine for over a month and I was drained, in pain, and feeling really low. I was supposed to be leaving the airport for a transatlantic international flight on the 19th of March and was not excited to travel or be on a plane for 7+ hours with my migraine. With everything that was going on, I called my doctor’s office and said that I would try the triptan. The NP assured me that I would only be taking a small dose 2x/day for 9 days to break the migraine cycle, and then I would cease taking the medication.

A few days prior to my departing flight, I picked up the medication from my pharmacy. The triptan was one I had never heard of before: Naratriptan. The dose was small and I was hopeful. I took the first dose as instructed and tried to relax. About 30 minutes in, the dreaded head burning began. I was honestly shocked. I was incredibly hopeful that I would tolerate this triptan differently and was very disappointed.

I tried taking the second dose for that day but the symptoms were only worsening. I called my neurologist’s office and informed them that I could not continue taking the medication and asked if there was anything else to try. My disappointment was only increased when I was informed they were officially at a loss.

I had hoped to write this post back when I was actively trying triptans again, but if I’m being honest, I was simply not up to it. The last week of May, my migraine from February 5, 2019 finally broke. Yay! Well, sort of, since the next day the migraine cycle simply began again.

Usually I try to find the silver lining, even if it is only one day being migraine-free. However, after having the same migraine for almost four months straight, my positivity was drained.

Triptans are many migraineurs’ go-to rescue meds but they will likely never work for me. This truly goes to show how unique migraine is to each patient. Not only can symptoms vary across individuals with migraine, but their medication tolerances and the effectiveness of certain medications can vary as well. I don’t intend on trying triptans anytime soon and don’t anticipate a third time being the charm.

Have you tried triptans for migraine relief? What has been your experience? Please leave us a comment to let us know!


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