Migraines cause sufferers intolerable pain and discomfort. They affect people’s work and social lives. It is a common condition we know very little about and treatments are few and far between. It is hardly surprising many people with migraines are also prone to depression and low moods. This means that migraine sufferers often receive treatment for depression to help them to cope with the condition.
Antidepressants work by increasing the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. The most common ones are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). They affect the brain’s response to serotonin which is responsible for regulating mood and other important functions.
Medication containing triptans treat migraines by reducing the discomfort of swelling and narrowing blood vessels. Triptans act upon serotonin in the brain which increases the risk of serotonin syndrome if taken at the same time as SSRIs or SNRIs. Taking antidepressant and triptans at the same time increases the risk of adverse side effects. You must consult your doctor if you are considering using triptans if you are already taking antidepressants.
What Are Antidepressants?
People wrongly call antidepressants, ‘happy pills’ which is not an accurate description of how they work. Antidepressants commonly treat depression and anxiety but also treat conditions like fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain. There are three types of depression medication; SSRIs, SNRIs and MAOIs. They all act on neurotransmitters in the brain.
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs are the most common type of antidepressants available. They work by increasing the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin enables signals from the nerves to the brain to travel efficiently. The reuptake action prevents reabsorption into the body leaving excess serotonin to continue working.
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are not necessarily the ultimate answer to curing depression but they help to elevate moods. Citalopram, Fluoxetine and Sertraline are SSRIs. Some medication reacts adversely to SSRIs. Treatment for migraines increases serotonin production in the brain which may result in serotonin syndrome which is a serious condition. (Source: NHS.uk)
Serotonin-Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs are a relatively new medication for anxiety they encourage the production of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain. Serotonin - Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors increase your blood pressure. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure while you take them. Venlafaxine and duloxetine are SNRIs. Again reactions with other medications cause adverse side effects. (Source: NHS.UK)
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs are an older type of antidepressant they work by preventing the destruction of monoamine oxides in the brain. This helps to balance chemicals in the brain. They are also increase serotonin production in the brain and affect the bodies reaction to certain foods. You will have to alter your diet when you take them. (Source: Netdoctor.uk)
Triptans are the most up to date way to treat migraines. They relieve swelling and relax blood vessels in the brain. Triptans increase serotonin production in the brain and cause serotonin syndrome if taken with antidepressants. It is important you visit your doctor immediately if you have the following side effects; confusion, hallucinations, trouble walking and fast heart rate. (Source: migraine.com)
Taking antidepressants and treatment for migraines does cause complications and may exacerbate your symptoms. It is therefore extremely important that you consult your doctor before taking both of them together.
By Parv Sagoo (June 2018)