Sumatriptan (Oral)

Sumatriptan is prescribed for treatment of migraine headaches in adults. It is not recommended for patients with hypertension, or heart or liver disease.

Overview

Sumatriptan is a medication in the triptan family of drugs and is used to treat migraine headaches in adults. Taking Sumatriptan can provide relief for migraines, as well as the vomiting, nausea and light sensitivity that may accompany them. It is available by prescription only, and comes in tablet and injectable form. The tablet form is sold in dosages of 25, 50 or 100 mg, with the exact amount to be determined by a doctor. Sumatriptan works by altering the serotonin levels, thereby dilating the blood vessels and allowing blood to flow more freely to restricted areas in the brain. Taking Sumatriptan does not eliminate or reduce the frequency of migraines suffered by the patient, but only treats them when they occur.

Patients should take a dose of Sumatriptan at the beginning of their migraine. If the medication does not work within two hours, a second dose can be taken. However, patients should not take more than 200 mg within a 24-hour period. It is also recommended that Sumatriptan not be taken more than ten times per month, which can lead to headaches continuing for longer periods of time.

The risk of side effects is common when taking Sumatriptan, and some of these can be serious. Some of the common side effects include feelings of being tired or drowsy or having tingling or numbness in the legs and arms. Many times, these side effects will disappear as the body gets used to the drug in the bloodstream. However, there are some side effects which may indicate a more severe medical problem resulting from taking Sumatriptan. Sumatriptan can cause problems in patients with a history of heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure. Patients should provide their doctor with a detailed medical history, including a family history, of any history of medical problems. Patients with a family history of heart disease, for example, may need a heart examination before taking Sumatriptan. Patients with high blood pressure may need to take regular blood pressure tests to monitor any problems.

Conditions Treated

  • Migraine headache

Type of Medicine

  • Triptan (blood vessel dilator)

Side Effects

Sumatriptan may cause a variety of side effects. Not every patient will experience these side effects, and not all of them are serious. However, in some cases, unwanted side effects may indicate a problem that needs immediate medical attention.

Some less common side effects which nonetheless may indicate a serious problem:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke.

For heart attacks, these symptoms include pain or discomfort in the chest, shoulders, arms or neck, as well as difficulty breathing or tightness in the chest. For a stroke, a patient may experience blurred or double vision, slurred speech or difficulty speaking or swallowing, or partial paralysis or numbness on one side of the body or face. Other symptoms include a change in heartbeat or pulse, either very fast, very slow or an irregular rhythm. Dizziness, confusion, chills or muscle cramps may also indicate a serious problem.

Some very rare side effects that also require the attention of a doctor include:

  • Spasms or twitching of an eyelid
  • Blindness
  • Itchiness, pain, redness or swelling in any part of the body
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Weakness in the legs or arms
  • Vomiting blood or a coffee-ground-like substance.

If a patient experiences any of the above side effects, they should seek immediate medical attention.

Sumatriptan can also cause less severe side effects, which are often present only while the body adjusts to the drug in the bloodstream. For these side effects, patients may talk to their doctor for information about preventing or reducing the incidence of these effects. Patients who are concerned or who find that any of the side effects continue or worsen should discuss this with their doctor.

Some less common side effects:

  • Having a tingling or numb sensation, such as pins and needles
  • Changes to hearing or vision
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tired or drowsy
  • Becoming more sensitive to light
  • Muscle stiffness, swelling or cramps
  • Trouble sleeping.

Rarer effects include:

  • Heartburn and stomach upset
  • Greater sensitivity to pain
  • Unusual loss of appetite
  • Continued numbness, weakness, pain or tingling in the hands, feet or other parts of the body

Patients may also experience certain side effects that are not listed above. For any side effects that are unusual or which cause discomfort or concern, patients should discuss with their doctor. Side effects of Sumatriptan and other medications can also be reported to the FDA by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.

Dosage

Oral Sumatriptan is sold in tablet form. Dosages will be determined by a doctor based on the severity of the migraine being treated, along with the frequency. Doctors will prescribe difference dosages for different patients depending on their individual needs. As a result, it’s important to follow the instructions provided by the doctor, or the informational insert that is provided with the medication.

How many tablets an individual patient takes will depend on the strength of the dose as prescribed. The doctor will also instruct the patient about how many times per day they may take this medication, and for how long a patient will take this medication.

Sumatriptan comes in three strengths. An average dose for an adult may be 25, 50 or 100 milligrams (mg) per dose. If the migraine does not completely go away within two hours after taking the medication, the patient can take a second dose. However, a patient should not exceed a maximum dose of 200 mg in 24 hours.

This medication is not recommended for children.

The tablet should be swallowed whole without chewing and can be taken with or without food.

Patients should be aware of certain instructions for the use of Sumatriptan. Sumatriptan should only be taken for the migraine headache it is prescribed for, and not for a normal tension headache. It’s best taken right away, as soon as a migraine starts. For those patients who experience an aura or blurring vision prior to the migraine, they should still wait until the headache starts before taking the dose of Sumatriptan.

In some cases, the Sumatriptan may not completely relieve the migraine, or it provides some relief but the migraine returns after a short time. In these cases, the patient can take a second dose, after waiting for at least 2 hours. It is very important, however, that patients only take this medication as it has been prescribed by a doctor, and should not be taken more frequently, or in a larger dose, than prescribed. The risk of side effects increases with excessive doses of Sumatriptan. It is not recommended that a patient take more than 200mg within any 24-hour period.

If taking Sumatriptan does not provide relief of the migraine, patients should discuss with their doctor, since there may be a different medical problem other than a migraine which is causing the headaches. A doctor can suggest other tests and treatments if Sumatriptan does not work.

Interactions

Since Sumatriptan acts on blood vessels, it can interact with a variety of other drugs. For some of these medications, it is not recommended to take Sumatriptan at all. With certain other medications, however, it may be possible to take Sumatriptan at a modified dose or other precaution. Patients should always provide their doctor with a complete medical history, including all medications and over the counter drugs the patient is taking. The prescribing doctor can provide advice on how to proceed with taking medications that may interact with Sumatriptan.

The list of medications below shows the medications with the most potential to interact with Sumatriptan, but is not intended to include all possible drug interactions.

Patients who have used a MAOI or MAO inhibitor medication within the past two weeks should not use Sumatriptan. These would include phenelzine or tranylcypromine. Neither should Sumatriptan be used in the same 24-hour period as another triptan or ergot medication, which may also be prescribed to treat migraines. Some examples of other triptan drugs and ergot-type drugs are included in the list below. Check with a doctor for any questions about other medications.

The following medications are not recommended for use while a patient is taking Sumatriptan:

  • Almotriptan
  • Bromocriptine
  • Dihydroergotamine
  • Eletriptan
  • Ergoloid Mesylates
  • Ergonovine
  • Ergotamine
  • Frovatriptan
  • Furazolidone
  • Iproniazid
  • Isocarboxazid
  • Linezolid
  • Methylene Blue
  • Methylergonovine
  • Methysergide
  • Moclobemide
  • Naratriptan
  • Phenelzine
  • Procarbazine
  • Rasagiline
  • Rizatriptan
  • Safinamide
  • Selegiline
  • Tranylcypromine
  • Zolmitriptan

Unlike the medications above, the medications that are listed below might have an interaction with Sumatriptan, but may still be used if a doctor determines them to be necessary to the patient’s treatment. In particular, patients who take Sumatriptan while also taking medications to treat depression are at risk of developing a condition known as serotonin syndrome, which can be serious. Some symptoms of serotonin syndrome are abnormal agitation, excitement restlessness, confusion, shivering or shaking uncontrollably, as well as diarrhea, fever, or a loss of coordination or overactive reflexes. A doctor should be consulted for any of these symptoms, and to determine if the patient can safely take Sumatriptan or if a change in dose or frequency of Sumatriptan is needed.

Patients should inform their doctor if they are taking any of the following medications:

  • Amineptine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Amitriptylinoxide
  • Amoxapine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Citalopram
  • Clomipramine
  • Dasabuvir
  • Desipramine
  • Desvenlafaxine
  • Dexfenfluramine
  • Dibenzepin
  • Dolasetron
  • Doxepin
  • Duloxetine
  • Escitalopram
  • Fentanyl
  • Fluoxetine
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Granisetron
  • Imipramine
  • Levomilnacipran
  • Lofepramine
  • Lorcaserin
  • Melitracen
  • Meperidine
  • Milnacipran
  • Mirtazapine
  • Nefazodone
  • Nortriptyline
  • Opipramol
  • Oxycodone
  • Palonosetron
  • Paroxetine
  • Protriptyline
  • Reboxetine
  • Sertraline
  • Sibutramine
  • St. John's Wort
  • Tapentadol
  • Tianeptine
  • Tramadol
  • Trazodone
  • Trimipramine
  • Venlafaxine
  • Vilazodone
  • Vortioxetine
  • Ziprasidone

Patients who are taking other over-the-counter medications, or who use alcohol or tobacco products, should discuss with their doctor whether this may also interact with their use of Sumatriptan. In some cases, the doctor may also advise whether this medication should be taken with or without food.

Warnings

Sumatriptan is only recommended for use by adults. There have not been sufficient studies of its use in children to determine what a safe dose may be. Similarly, there have not been sufficient studies of Sumatriptan in pregnant women to determine whether there is a negative effect on the fetus. Taking Sumatriptan while breastfeeding, however, does not appear to have a negative effect on infants. Women who are using Sumatriptan and who are planning to become pregnant should discuss this medication with their doctor.

Seniors who have certain diseases should also avoid taking Sumatriptan. Specifically, Sumatriptan should not be taken if a patient has kidney or liver problems, heart disease, blood vessel problems, or high blood pressure. Patients should discuss their medical history with their doctor prior to taking Sumatriptan.

Sumatriptan can result in problems if it is taken by patients who are suffering from certain medical issues.

Patients with any of the following diseases or medical concerns need to inform their doctor prior to taking Sumatriptan:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Arrhythmia (problems with heart rhythm)
  • Migraine coupled with vision and hearing problems
  • A history of cerebrovascular disease such as stroke
  • A history of heart attack
  • Heart disease or blood vessel problems
  • Migraines coupled with paralysis (hemiplegic migraine)
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Ischemic bowel disease
  • Liver disease (mild, moderate or severe)
  • Clogged arteries (peripheral vascular disease)
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (affects heart rhythm – Sumatriptan should not be used)
  • History of epilepsy or seizures
  • Stomach or intestinal bleeding (may make these conditions worse)
  • History of coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
  • Mild obesity
  • Raynaud's syndrome (may have serious side effects)

Sumatriptan may lead to medical problems for patients with existing or a history of heart disease. It can increase the risk that a patient can experience a heart attack, angina, stroke or abnormal heart rhythm, especially in patients who smoke, or those with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Patients should inform their doctor of any history of heart problems, both for themselves but also if there is a family history of such problems. A doctor may administer the first dose of this medication during an office visit if there is a possible problem with taking Sumatriptan.

In the event of any heart attack or stroke symptoms, the patient should call their doctor right away. Symptoms of a possible heart attack include chest pain or tightness, pain in the shoulders, arms, neck, back or jaw, vomiting or nausea, shortness of breath, sweating, or an uneven heartbeat. Stroke symptoms include confusion, slow speech, or difficulty with or inability to speak, blurred or double vision, headaches, and being unable to move arms, legs or the muscles in the face. Any of these symptoms may require immediate medical attention.

It is not recommended that Sumatriptan be used either by itself or with another migraine medicine for more than ten days per month, at the risk of a worsening headache. Patients may be asked by their doctor to keep a daily diary to note when they have their migraines, and when they take their medications.

Sumatriptan can have serious side effects if taken with other medications in the triptan family or the ergot-type drug family, which are also prescribed for migraines. Taking an excessive amount of triptan medication can lead to persistent headaches and other results from toxic amounts. Patients should be sure to inform their doctor of all medications they are taking before being prescribed Sumatriptan.

Patients who are taking medication for depression should consult with their doctor before taking Sumatriptan. Combining these drugs can lead to a condition known as serotonin syndrome, which can be serious. Some of the symptoms of this condition are the following: fast pulse or heartbeat, dizziness, hallucinations, loss of coordination, agitation or unusual restlessness, twitching muscles, fever, severe vomiting, nausea or diarrhea. Immediate medical attention should be sought in case of any of these symptoms.

Taking Sumatriptan can lead to anaphylaxis, which is an allergic reaction to the medication and needs medical attention immediately. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include very fast breathing, irregular breathing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, gasping for breath, or fainting. Patients having an allergic reaction can also experience certain severe side effects, such as a racing pulse or fast heartbeat, or hives or puffiness of the skin or eyes. These are very serious side effects, and require immediate emergency medical attention by calling 911.

Some patients may experience dizziness or lightheadedness when taking Sumatriptan, or may also find that they feel drowsy or sleepy. In these cases, patients should avoid driving, operating machinery or doing any other activity that requires them to be alert while taking Sumatriptan.

Storage

The oral form of Sumatriptan is a tablet, which should be kept in a closed bottle at room temperature. Do not expose it to moisture, humidity, heat or direct light, and avoid freezing this medication.

This and all medications should be kept out of the reach of children. If this medication has expired or is no longer being taken, it should be disposed of properly. A health care or law enforcement professional can advise the best way to dispose safely of drugs.

Summary

Sumatriptan is prescribed for the relief of acute migraine or cluster headache in adults, and can help relieve the migraine and the symptoms that sometimes accompany migraines, such as nausea, vomiting or an extreme sensitivity to light. Because it is intended for severe migraines, this medication should not be taken for a common tension headache. This medication is available in several different delivery methods, including tablet form (oral), a nasal spray and an injectable form, all of which can be purchased by prescription only. For the tablet form, the standard medication strengths per each tablet are 25, 50 or 100 mg. A doctor will prescribe the correct dose and frequency according to the needs of the individual patient. This medication is not recommended for children or elderly patients with a history of heart disease or stroke, or by anyone without a prescription.

Patients usually take one dose of Sumatriptan as soon as they feel the onset of the migraine. If the migraine does not subside within two hours, a second dose can be taken, but no more than 200 mg of Sumatriptan should be taken during any 24-hour period. Excessive amounts of Sumatriptan can lead to a toxic response, with side effects such as dizziness, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath or nausea and vomiting.

This medication is not recommended for patients taking certain types of other drugs without the instruction of their doctor. These medications include other migraine medicines in the triptan or ergot-type families of migraine treatments, which can lead to toxic side effects, such as the loss of effectiveness of the medication for treating headaches.

Sumatriptan is also not recommended for patients taking anti-depressant medications. Combining Sumatriptan with depression medications can lead to a condition known as serotonin syndrome, with additional unwanted side effects. Patients should consult their doctor and provide a full medical history prior to taking Sumatriptan.

Sumatriptan can also exacerbate the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, especially in patients with a history or with a family history of heart attack, stroke or high blood pressure. For patients with any of these symptoms, it is recommended they seek emergency medical attention right away.

If used correctly and according to instructions, Sumatriptan can provide welcome relief from the most severe recurring migraines and cluster headaches, as well as the accompanying symptoms.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
January 31, 2018
Last Updated:
February 10, 2018