Writer’s note: 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,” on a regular basis. If there are terms you’d like to have defined, please leave a comment below.
When we’re given migraine and headache information, whether from our doctor, a book, or an online article, we sometimes come across medical terms that can be confusing. While it’s easy enough to substitute another word or a short phrase for the medical term, there are times when substituting doesn’t quite convey the same meaning.
Serotonin is one of those terms. 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
For more terms, see our Migraine Medical Terms Glossary Index.
© Teri Robert, 2009
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate in the area of migraine and other headache disorders, and has been writing for the HealthCentral migraine site since 2007. She is a co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association. She received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award for “ongoing patient education, support, and advocacy,” in 2004 and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society in 2013. You can find links to Teri’s work on her web site and blog and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.