Antidepressant medicines, which are usually used to treat depression, can be effective in preventing migraine headaches. Antidepressants have some pain-relieving properties and may reduce duration and frequency of headaches. Antidepressants are also used to improve sleep problems.
Tricyclic antidepressants are used most to prevent migraines. Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are used most often.
Other antidepressants may be tried if you do not respond well to amitriptyline or nortriptyline. The choice of antidepressant to treat your migraines may depend on your ability to tolerate the side effects of the medicine.
Side effects of tricyclic antidepressants include:
Inability to urinate.
Low blood pressure when you stand up quickly.
Never suddenly stop taking antidepressants. The use of any antidepressant should be tapered off slowly and only under the supervision of a doctor. Abruptly stopping antidepressant medicine can cause negative side effects or a relapse into a depressive episode or panic disorder.
FDA advisories. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued:
A warning about taking triptans, used for headaches, with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or SNRIs (selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Taking these medicines together can cause a very rare but serious condition called serotonin syndrome.
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ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine