Pharmacy World and Science

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 146–151 | Cite as

The role of nitric oxide in vascular headache

  • P.-H. M. van der Kuy
  • J. J.H.M. Lohman


Shortly after the invention of nitroglycerin (NTG)), it was noticed that this substance is capable of inducing a violent headache. Only recently, it became known that this was due to the release of nitric oxide (NO) by NTG. As the molecular mechanism of migraine pain remains to be determined, NTG, being pro‐drug for NO, has been used to study the aetiology and pathophysiology of migraine. Such studies with NTG‐ and also histamine‐induced headaches, have led to propose that NO may be the causative molecule in migraine pain. The evidence supporting the role of NO in migraine is discussed, e.g. substances capable of inducing experimental vascular headache do so with NO as the common mediator, while drugs with antimigraine activity inhibit NO and the cascade of intracellular reactions triggered by NO. The importance of NO as a potential initiator of the migraine attack opens new directions for the pharmacological treatment of migraine and other vascular headaches.

Experimental vascular headache Histamine Migraine Nitric oxide Nitroglycerin NO–cGMP pathway Vascular headache 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • P.-H. M. van der Kuy
    • 1
  • J. J.H.M. Lohman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Pharmacy and ToxicologyMaastricht Academic HospitalMaastrichtThe Netherlands E‐mail
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Clinical Pharmacology and ToxicologyMaasland HospitalSittardThe Netherlands

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