Medical Q&As

Migraine - beta blocker?

I suffer from migraine and have recently been prescribed a beta-blocker. How will these control my migraine and what are the side effects of taking this drug?

Beta-blockers are the drugs of choice for migraine prophylaxis, which means that they are taken in order to prevent an attack of migraine from happening in the first place. They work by blocking the effects of noradrenaline, which is an important neurotransmitter or chemical messenger within the nervous system. Noradrenaline causes dilation of blood vessels within the brain and this effect of dilating the blood vessels is one of the key mechanisms in the evolution of a migraine attack. Therefore the beta-blocker is a very logical treatment for preventing a migraine attack because it blocks the effect of the noradrenaline on blood vessel dilation. Beta-blockers are very safe drugs and are well tolerated by most people. However, some people may experience side effects. These include cardiac rhythm disturbance, low blood pressure, breathlessness, exacerbation of depression, fatigue and cold extremities. They are contraindicated in people with asthma and those who are concurrently using calcium channel blockers.