Medication is typically the first-line of defense for teens and adults who suffer from migraines. Unfortunately, most medications are designed to provide migraine relief. The inherent problem with this being that the migraine has already started and, for many, it's too little, too late to benefit from more than a marginal decrease in pain or discomfort.
Instead of migraine relief, patients suffering from chronic migraines seek migraine prevention - medications and/or treatments that prevent migraines from occurring in the first place. This is where Topamax comes into play.
Topamax Is Preventative Migraine Treatment
One of the things that sets Topamax apart from typical migraine treatments is that it's considered a prophylactic, meaning it prevents the condition before it even starts. It is important to note that while Topamax works to prevent a migraine attack, it does not treat a headache that has already begun.
Originally created as a treatment for epilepsy, smaller doses can be used to control certain types of migraine headaches. This is due to the fact that epilepsy and migraines appear to have some shared biological markers. Topamax is taken daily, and it is important that you take each and every dose, without fail, in order for it to work as intended.
While taking Topamax for migraines, it's recommended that you:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent kidney stones and maintain your body's electrolytes in balance.
- Honor your doctor's requests for blood tests if necessary.
- Never skip doses if you are "feeling fine" for extended periods of time. Consider "feeling fine" the sign that the Topamax is doing it's job.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Try to avoid becoming overheated or dehydrated.
- Do not start "high-protein/low-carb" diets as this can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
- Slowly taper doses of Topamax under the supervision of a doctor, rather than stopping them "cold turkey."
As with any prescription medicine, take Topamax exactly as advised by your doctor, without any variations. Taking a higher or lower dose than your doctor prescribes can have serious consequences.
Is Topamax Right For You?
It it is important to know whether or not you are a good candidate for the medication before starting a prescription.
For example, Topamax has been known to cause harm to unborn babies so let your doctor know if you are pregnant or plan to get pregnant in the near future. Also, inform doctor if you have:
- Glaucoma or other eye problems
- Kidney disease or a history of kidney stones
- A history or depression, suicidal thoughts or mood disorders
- Liver disease
- A history of metabolic acidosis
- Soft or brittle bones
- A growth disorder
- Prescriptions for lithium, birth control pills, metformin, glaucoma medications or other migraine medicines.
- Chronic diarrhea
A thorough evaluation with a doctor specializing in migraine relief is the best way to determine whether Topamax is right for you.
Most Typical Side Effects of Topamax
Topamax is considered an anti-convulsant and is associated with certain side effects. In most cases, side-effects are linked to higher-doses prescribed for individuals with seizure disorders, rather than the lower-doses prescribed to prevent migraines.
However, you should inform your doctor immediately if you suffer from any of the following side effects while taking Topamax.
- Vision problems. Call your doctor if you experience sudden or unusual eye problems, including vision loss, eye pain, redness or rapid eye movement.
- Decreased sweating. Decreased sweating leads to overheating and fever. Be especially watchful of decreased sweating in adolescents and teenagers who may not notice this symptom as readily.
- Metabolic acidosis. Acidosis can lead to a string of undesirable health conditions. Regular blood tests are the most common way to look for metabolic acidosis, which may or may not have symptoms. Symptoms would include unusual fatigue or lethargy, mental fogginess, lack of appetite and changes in heartbeat.
- Moodiness. Sometimes, anti-convlusants can cause depression, irritability, mental fogginess or mood swings that become difficult to live with or can affect daily interactions with others. Let close friends and/or family members know so they can be on the watch for symptoms you may not notice in yourself.
The good news is that, when carefully evaluated and monitored by a migraine specialist, patients will reap all of the benefits of Topamax's migraine prevention, without suffering from any of the above side-effects.
For those who meet certain criteria, Topamax has been an excellent first-line of defense against developing debilitating migraines.
Feel like you've exhausted the gamut of migraine medications and are ready for the next line of defense? Contact us to discuss other options so you can live the active, pain-free and uninterrupted life you deserve.