Nitric oxide: Key player in headache

Nitric oxide (NO) is important in cerebral blood flow and pain processing and plays a key role in migraine, cluster and chronic tension type headaches.

The publication:

November, 2008

The role of nitric oxide (NO) in migraine, tension-type headache and cluster headache.

Summary of the abstract

The most important primary headaches (i.e. independent disorders that are not caused by another disease) are migraine, tension-type headache and cluster headache. All primary headaches are in need of better treatments.

Migraine has a prevalence of 10% in the general population and its societal costs are high. Although the precise mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of migraine are still elusive, the last decades have witnessed some progress (e.g. involvement of serotonin, calcitonin gene-related peptide, nitric oxide, etc).

Nitric oxide (NO) is a very important molecule in the regulation of cerebral and extra cerebral cranial blood flow and arterial diameters. It is also involved in nociceptive processing. Glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), which when given generates NO, causes headache in normal volunteers and a so called delayed headache that fulfils criteria for migraine without aura in migraine sufferers.

Blockade of nitric oxide synthases (NOS) effectively treats attacks of migraine as well as chronic tension-type headache and cluster headache.

Inhibition of NO production represents a target for new drugs for treating migraine and other headaches.

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