Cafergot is the proprietary name of a medication consisting of ergotamine tartrate or ergoline and caffeine. This combination is used for the treatment of vascular headaches, such as migraine headache.
Correct timing of use is important. Cafergot is an abortive headache treatment, which prevents the development of the headache, rather than a treatment for an established headache. The medication should be administered at the first sign of headache.
Mechanism of action
The causes of migraine are not fully understood, but dilation of blood vessels in the brain may play a part in causing the headache pain. Ergotamine tartrate and caffeine both are vasoconstrictors, substances which act to constrict blood vessels.
Because the vasoconstrictive effects of ergotamine and caffeine are not selective for the brain, adverse effects due to systemic vasoconstiction can occur. Cold feet or hands, angina pectoris or dizziness are some examples.
Ergotamine, if used frequently over a prolonged period of time, can cause dependence in the patient. If dependence occurs then cessation of ergotamine use can precipitate the same headaches which the drug was being used to treat. For this reason frequency of use must be restricted.