Topamax for Migraine Prevention

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD on April 25, 2016Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group on April 25, 2016

Introduction

A migraine is more than a headache. It often lasts longer (up to 72 hours) and is more severe. There are many symptoms of migraines, including nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The major symptom is moderate to severe pain that typically occurs on one side of your head.

Certain drugs are available to help prevent migraines. Migraine prevention drugs are different from drugs that treat migraines that have already started. You take migraine prevention drugs every day. They help reduce the number of migraines that you have and also help make these migraines less severe. One of these drugs for migraine prevention is called Topamax.

What is Topamax?

Topamax belongs to a class of drugs called anticonvulsants. A class of drugs is a group of drugs that work in a similar way. Although anticonvulsants are used to treat epilepsy, many anticonvulsants are also effective for other conditions, including migraine.

How Topamax works

The exact way that Topamax works to help prevent migraines isn’t known. It is believed that Topamax calms overactive nerve cells in the brain that lead to migraines.

Topamax is taken every day to prevent migraines. You will likely not notice Topamax working right away when you first start using it. It may take a few months for Topamax to reduce the number of migraines you have.

Drug features

Topamax comes in an oral capsule and an oral tablet. Topamax is a brand name for the drug topiramate. Topamax is also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less.

Side effects of Topamax

As with any drug, Topamax can cause side effects. The lists below highlight the more common and the more severe side effects that are possible when you take this drug.

The more common side effects of Topamax can include:

  • tingling in your arms and legs
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • changes in how things taste
  • nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • trouble sleeping
  • dizziness
  • nose and throat (upper airway) infections
  • memory problems

Serious side effects of Topamax can include:

  • eye problems, including vision loss
  • decreased sweating that can lead to increased body temperature (may feel like a fever that doesn’t go away)
  • suicidal thoughts

Talk to Your Doctor

Migraines can affect your quality of life. This is especially true if they are severe and frequent. Reducing the number or severity of migraines you have is the best way to minimize the effect of migraines on your day-to-day life. Topamax is one drug that may help, especially if other therapies haven’t worked. Talk to your doctor about Topamax. Your doctor knows your medical history and will choose the type of therapy that is most likely to work for you.

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