If you don't know whether or not your headache is just a headache, or if it's actually a migraine, you may be missing out on effective treatments, suggests an expert at the American Migraine Foundation.

"Migraine is not just a headache, but a neurological disorder that has a wide variety of symptoms and specific treatments," foundation chair Dr.
David Dodick, who's also a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a foundation news release.

Dodick said that between 36 million and 40 million Americans experience migraines. He added that many of those people never get a formal diagnosis or proper treatment from a migraine specialist.

You might have migraine if you experience two or more of the following symptoms:

Moderate to severe head pain
Throbbing head pain, often on one side of the head
Head pain that lasts from four hours to several days
Nausea or vomiting
Headache that worsens with any physical activity or movement
Sensitivity to light, sound and odors
Difficulty concentrating and processing information due to the headache
Head pain associated with dizziness or vertigo
Headache severe enough to make you miss work or other activities
Temporary vision or language problems, or tingling and numbness, in addition to headache

Other signs of migraine include: headaches triggered by factors such as stress, menstruation, altitude, weather changes and alcohol; and having someone in the family who has recurrent moderate-to-severe headaches.

"These are some of the characteristics of migraine that differentiate it from other types of headache, and if you have any one of these symptoms, you should strongly consider speaking with your health care provider about the possibility of migraine," Dodick said.

He recommended seeing a migraine specialist if you experience the symptoms described above, particularly if the symptoms are disabling or happen more than 15 days each month.

"Physicians who are specially trained in treating migraine and other headache disorders can provide an accurate diagnosis, and a comprehensive treatment plan that can make living with migraine more manageable," Dodick said.

Migraine occurs three times more often in women than in men, according to the migraine foundation. Research also suggests that migraine is hereditary since it often runs in families.

-- Robert Preidt