Migraine: diagnosis, management, and new treatment options

Am J Manag Care. 2002 Feb;8(3 Suppl):S58-73.


Objective: The safety and tolerability of medications used to treat acute migraine attacks are summarized, the classification of headaches and the causes of and diagnostic criteria for migraine are reviewed, and the clinical tolerability profiles and therapeutic benefits of second-generation triptans are presented.

Background: Migraine is a paroxysmal disorder characterized by attacks of headache, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and phonophobia. Drugs used to prevent migraine and those that effectively treat acute migraine attacks are readily available.

Methods: Mild or moderate migraines are often treated with aspirin, acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antiemetic drugs, or isometheptene. Triptans (5-HT1 receptor agonists) are used to treat moderate or severe migraine and when nonspecific medications have been ineffective. Because sumatriptan, the first triptan used, is effective but can induce adverse events, second-generation triptans (zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, and almotriptan) were developed to increase the benefit-to-risk ratio in migraine management.

Results: Important pharmacologic, pharmacokinetic, and clinical differences exist among those drugs, but the tolerability profile of the newer triptans is very good, and they provide rapid relief from headache and sustained duration of effect.

Conclusion: Primary care physicians must manage migraine patients with treatments that demonstrate a balance between efficacy and tolerability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Analgesics / classification
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Migraine Disorders / prevention & control
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / adverse effects
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / classification
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use
  • United States


  • Analgesics
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists