Migraine Term of the Day: Serotonin

Teri Robert @trobert Health Guide
  • When we're looking at Migraine and headache information, whether it's from our doctor, a book, or an online article, we sometimes come across medical terms that can be confusing.

    Sometimes, it's easy enough to substitute another word or a short phrase for the medical term. At other times, substituting just doesn't convey quite the same meaning or takes more than a few words.

    Some of you have expressed an interest in learning more of the medical terminology that comes up when discussing Migraine disease and other headache disorders. So, I'll be posting a "term of the day," probably a couple of times a week. If there are terms you'd like to have defined, please leave a comment to let me know what it is.

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    Today's term: Serotonin.

    Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical found in the cells of the brain, in platelets, and in the intestine. In the central nervous system, it is a key neurotransmitter. In the blood vessels, it is released from platelets when blood vessel walls are damaged. Serotonin is also called 5-hydroxytriptamine.

    During a Migraine, levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters are affected. This is one reason we can have mood issues -- anxiety, depression, panic -- during a Migraine attack.

    Additionally, serotonin seems to play a role in Migraine in general that is yet to be understood. It's theorized that the role of serotonin in Migraine is why antidepressants are often good Migraine preventive medications.

    When taking some Migraine abortive medications (such as the triptans -- Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, etc.), antidepressants, and / or some other medications together, it is possible for a potentially dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome to develop. The "official" warnings about serotonin syndrome do not say that the medications cannot be used together, but do list symptoms that should be reported to our doctors. For more information on serotonin syndrome, see Antidepressants, Triptans, and Serotonin Syndrome.

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    Last updated November 20, 2009
Published On: November 25, 2009