Medical Definition of Triptan

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

Triptan: A class of drugs introduced in the 1990s for the treatment of migraine that act as agonists for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors. The triptans are often very effective in relieving migraine but do not prevent future attacks or lessen their frequency.

Migraine is believed to be due to dilatation of cranial blood vessels and the release of pro-inflammatory neuropeptides through nerve endings in the trigeminal nerve system.

The antimigraine activity of the triptans likely lies in their agonist effects on the 5-HT receptors in the intracranial blood vessels and nerves of the trigeminal system which result in cranial vessel constriction and inhibition of pro-inflammatory neuropeptide release.

The presence or absence of skin sensitivity (cutaneous allodynia) reportedly helps predict how a person with migraine will respond to a triptan. For most migraine patients without skin sensitivity, triptans work, regardless of when they take the drug. But in migraineurs with skin sensitivity, the triptans work best when taken early, within 20 minutes of the start of the migraine.

The triptans include sumatriptan (Imitrex), rizatriptan (Maxalt), naratriptan (Amerge), zolmitriptan (Zomig), eletriptan (Relpax), lmotriptan (Axert), and frovatriptan (Frova).

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018