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Drugs to prevent migraines are underused

Consumer Reports News: May 22, 2012 11:44 AM

Many treatments can help prevent migraine headaches, but few people who could benefit from them are actually taking advantage of them. That's according to information from the American Academy of Neurology released in April 2012.

Unlike acute treatments, which people take to relieve pain and other symptoms when a migraine strikes, preventive treatments are usually taken daily to reduce the frequency of attacks and lessen their severity and duration. Research suggests that the drugs could help prevent migraines in about 38 percent of those with the condition. But less than a third take them, the academy says.

Prescription options include the beta-blockers propranolol (Inderal and generic) and timolol (Blocadren and generic), and the antiepileptic drugs topiramate (Topamax and generic) and valproate (Depakote and generic). The academy also says there's good evidence that the herb butterbur can help prevent migraines.

Of course, it's best to prevent migraines without drugs if you can. Effective strategies include avoiding such triggers as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and emotional stress. It also helps to stay hydrated. Acupuncture and massage might also provide relief, some research suggests. But if nondrug measures don't help, talk with your doctor about trying preventive medication.

For more detailed information on treating migraine attacks, see our Best Buy Drugs report. Considering migraine prevention strategies? See our report on the use of the antidepressant amitriptyline.

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