Tricyclic antidepressants, or TCAs, are used to prevent migraines. They can decrease the frequency, severity, and duration of a migraine. The amount prescribed varies from person to person.
TCAs are commonly taken once a day at bedtime. Your doctor will start you off with a low dose and increase the dose slowly every 1 to 2 weeks. Typically, people respond within 10 days. But the best results may not occur until after you've taken the medication for 4 to 8 weeks.
How do tricyclic antidepressants work?
TCAs work by increasing the chemicals norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. When these levels are low, there is a greater chance of migraines. So when the level is raised, there is less chance.
What are the possible side effects from using tricyclic antidepressants and what should I do about them?
Common side effects from TCAs include:
- blurred vision
- difficulty urinating
- dizziness when standing, called orthostatic hypotension
- dry mouth
- dry skin
- fast heart rate
- increased appetite
- muscle twitches
- sedation, feeling medicated or sleepy
- sexual dysfunction
- weight gain
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you must seek immediate medical attention.
- altered liver function
- asthma - worsening of symptoms
- glaucoma - worsening
- irregular heartbeat, called cardiac arrhythmia
- loss of consciousness
- overdose - potentially fatal
- rashes or other allergic reactions
On the next page, learn about possible drug interactions with TCAs.