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Calcium Channel Blockers for Cluster Headaches

Calcium Channel Blockers for Cluster Headaches

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
verapamil Calan, Verelan

How It Works

It is not clear exactly how verapamil works to prevent cluster headaches.

Why It Is Used

Verapamil is used to prevent cluster headaches. You take it every day during a cluster cycle.

How Well It Works

Verapamil works very well to prevent cluster headaches during a cluster cycle. It can also be used daily to prevent chronic cluster headaches. 1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Slow heart rate.
  • Swelling in the lower legs or ankles.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Flushing or feeling warm.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow. To learn how to take your pulse, see the topic Taking a Pulse (Heart Rate) .

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments. And call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Capobianco DJ, Dodick DW (2006). Diagnosis and treatment of cluster headache. Seminars in Neurology, 26(2): 242–259.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last Revised May 14, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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