Is it a headache or a migraine?

Most people get headaches at some point in their lives, but for a migraine sufferer, the pain can be extreme. Dr. Hans Duvefelt, a physician with Pines Health Services says migraines are really a group of symptoms, with many different manifestations.

"Thirteen percent of American adults have migraines. But they can come in various forms, but overall you could say that migraines are headaches that come back again and again that are severe, take many hours to go away, and usually follow the same pattern every time you have one."

He says the two big categories are classic migraine, which have an aura or some type of eyesight changes and are less common, and a common migraine, that's more a bad headache without the visual phenomena. Symptoms vary.

"You can have neurologic symptoms, you can have paralysis, you can have dizziness, you can have belly pain, you can have abnormal behaviors and difficulty thinking - all kinds of different migraines."

Foods, strobe lights and noise are among the triggers.

"Most people with migraines have figured out what their triggers are, but sometimes we can't avoid them, even if we know what they are."

Medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen can work, says Duvefelt, if you get them onboard quickly, but using them too frequently can create a trap.

"If you take them often, then when they wear off, you can get a headache as the medication wears off. We call that rebound headaches and that's a trap."

Leaving a migraine untreated can result in more serious health issues, which may require additional medical treatment, including shots, to alleviate the headache.

"One of the problems with migraines is that once the migraine is established, the stomach pretty much stops working. That can manifest itself as nausea and vomiting, but even if you're not throwing up, whatever you put in the stomach pretty much stays there and you don't digest the medicine."

Duvefelt says finding the best treatment for a migraine can be a daunting task but don't give up.

"A lot of patients, I think, give up in trying to find a preventative medication, because it's an involved process, but it's worth it."

Duvefelt says knowing triggers and preventing them from occurring, and choosing the right medication, is the best option for migraine sufferers.