The use of triptans in the management of menstrual migraine

Lisa K Mannix, Julia A Files
CNS Drugs 2005, 19 (11): 951-72
Many women experience headaches, including migraine, in association with their menstrual cycles. Although definitions vary, menstrual migraine generally refers to migraine without aura that occurs within several days prior to and several days after the onset of menses. Although menstrual migraine has been reported to be more difficult to treat than other types of migraines, there is no evidence from controlled clinical trials to support this assertion. Thus, the pharmacological treatment of menstrual migraine should be similar to that of other types of migraines, except with respect to the use of hormonal manipulations to treat menstrual migraine. Serotonin 5-HT(1B/1D) receptor agonists (triptans) are effective for the acute treatment of both menstrual and non-menstrual migraines. When used as acute therapy, a triptan should be administered early, when the headache is still mild in severity. Ideally, an acute therapy will provide rapid and complete pain relief with no disability. Some patients may require preventive therapy for menstrual migraine based on suboptimal response to an adequate trial of acute therapy. Patient diaries that record headache onset, relationship to the menstrual cycle and treatment response through three complete cycles will allow accurate prediction of the onset of menstrual migraine; this information is also needed to make decisions about timing of intermittent preventive therapy. The goals of intermittent preventive therapy are to reduce the frequency, duration and intensity of menstrual migraine attacks. Clinical studies show that triptans are effective when used as either acute therapy or as intermittent preventive therapy for menstrual migraine. Sumatriptan and zolmitriptan have been evaluated in prospective, randomised, controlled trials for acute treatment. Retrospective analyses and open-label studies also support the use of other triptans as acute therapy. In addition, sumatriptan, frovatriptan, naratriptan and zolmitriptan have been evaluated as intermittent preventive therapy in prospective studies. Thus, data from clinical studies indicate that triptans are effective for the treatment of menstrual migraine.

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