Key Facts about Imitrex for Migraines Including Side Effects

Risks and Precautions of Imitrex and Its Use in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Imitrex (sumatriptan) is a triptan medication used to relieve acute migraines. See whether this medication is a good option for you, and what to expect if your healthcare provider prescribes it. 

Woman with headache

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How Do I Take Imitrex for My Migraines?

Imitrex is available as a nasal spray, tablet, or subcutaneous injection (given in the fatty tissue). The nasal spray and injection are helpful for people who have severe nausea and vomiting with their migraines. Talk with your healthcare provider about what the best formulation is for you. 

Who Is Not a Candidate for Imitrex?

Certain people should not take Imitrex for their migraines. This is why it's important to discuss all your health problems and all your medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements, with your healthcare provider. 

People who are not candidates for Imitrex include those with:

  • Presence or risk factors for coronary artery disease, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease
  • Uncontrolled hypertension
  • Basilar or hemiplegic migraines
  • Severe liver impairment
  • Allergy to sumatriptan or its ingredients

Imitrex may also interact with certain medications. For instance, a person should not take Imitrex within two weeks of discontinuation of monoamine-oxidase inhibitor therapy. A person should not take Imitrex within 24 hours of taking any ergotamine medication, such as DHE or Migranal.

Can I Take Imitrex When Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

Due to limited studies available, it's not known whether Imitrex can harm an unborn baby. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or could become pregnant during treatment.

In terms of breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, lists sumatriptan as compatible with breastfeeding. That said, the scientific evidence is still limited—so speak with your practitioner first if you are breastfeeding.

What are the Common Side Effects of Taking Imitrex for Migraines?

Talk with your healthcare provider if you find any side effects bothersome or persistent. Some common side effects include:

  • Tingling or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Dizziness
  • Flushing of face
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling tired

Also, if you are feeling dizzy or drowsy, don't drive or operate heavy machinery, or do anything that requires you to think clearly.

What are the Serious Side Effects of Taking Imitrex for Migraines?

Imitrex can cause a heart attack or other heart problems. It's important to seek emergent medical attention if you develop any of these symptoms:

  • Discomfort in the center of your chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that is recurrent 
  • Chest pain or pain in arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Trouble breathing or catching air
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

In addition, Imitrex can lead to a serious condition called serotonin syndrome—this is more likely to occur when Imitrex is taken with other medications that increase serotonin levels in the body, like the antidepressants SSRIs or SNRIs. Call your healthcare provider right away if you experience symptoms of serotonin syndrome like:

  • Nervous system changes like confusion, hallucinations, agitation, or coma
  • Hallucinations
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Tight muscles
  • Problems walking
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Coma

Other serious health problems associated with Imitrex include:

  • Raynaud's phenomenon: color and sensory change in fingers and toes
  • Gut ischemia: poor blood flow to your stomach and intestines 
  • Peripheral vascular ischemia: poor blood flow to legs and feet
  • Allergic reaction: may cause hives, wheezing, problems breathing, or swelling of the tongue, mouth, or throat

What Does This Mean for Me As a Migraineur?

Imitrex is an effective migraine therapy, and the fact that it comes in different forms can make it beneficial for many people who have migraines. That being said, there are certain risks and serious side effects you should be aware of. Make sure you take it as directed, and tell your healthcare provider about any side effects you're experiencing.

When you take prescription medication for migraine treatment, make sure you also pay attention to triggers that affect your migraines, like certain foods, and incorporate lifestyle adjustments into your migraine care plan.

The material on this page is for educational purposes only and should not replace the advice of a licensed physician. 

1 Source
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  1. FDA Label. Imitrex. 2021

Additional Reading

By Teri Robert
 Teri Robert is a writer, patient educator, and patient advocate focused on migraine and headaches.