Steroids for migraines

Steroid medications can be very effective for migraine headaches that fail to respond to other medications. Steroids, such as prednisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone have many potential serious side effects if taken for a long time. We know about these long-term side effects from patients with asthma, arthritis, lupus and other conditions who have take steroids daily for months and even years. However, these medications are relatively safe if taken for only a few days. If a severe headache does not respond to Migralex, sumatriptan, (Imitrex), or other medications, I prescribe a two-day course of dexamethasone. The usual dose is 8 mg daily for two days. Other doctors prescribe a six-day course of methylprednisolone (Medrol Dosepak). However, if a headache completely resolves after two days, it seems unnecessary to continue this medication for the full six days. In the office, we also give intravenous dexamethasone which provides faster relief than tablets. Another indication for steroids is for cluster headaches. A ten-day course of prednisone (starting with 100 mg and reducing by 10 mg every day) can sometimes stop the entire cluster period. Unfortunately, for some cluster headache sufferers headaches return as soon as the dose of prednisone is lowered. If no other preventive medication, such as verapamil, lithium, topiramate (Topamax) or divalproex (Depakote) work, some patients with severe attacks are willing to accept the risk of long-term side effects of steroids. Some of these side effects are weight gain, diabetes, stomach ulcers, glaucoma, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.