This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DENVER — Severe headaches and migraines remain a mystery to doctors.

They have figured out how to relieve the symptoms but can’t diagnose what causes migraines in the first place.

Dr. Michael Ament of the Ament Headache Center in Cherry Creek says his patients’ lives are altered by severe headaches.

“A person will be feeling fine and the next thing you know they’ll have nausea and can’t look at a computer screen and in some cases they can’t drive,” Ament said.

Sherri Johnson says there are obvious signs that a bad headache is coming on.

“Some of them start at the base of my skull and come up over my head,” Johnson said.

Anything can trigger a migraine headache — the sound of everyday traffic or a change in the weather.

Ament said women are much more likely to experience severe headaches.

“There’s an association between their menstrual cycle and when they get migraines,” she said.

It’s tempting for some patients to take prescription pain killers, but researchers now warn that addictive drugs like Vicodin can actually make the situation worse by causing rebound headaches.

It only takes 10 days of taking narcotics each month to double the risk that the next year a person will have a chronic headache.

Researchers also warn that repeated cat scans used to examine the brain may be harmful.  They say that MRI scans are a better choice.

Plenty of non-addictive medications are available that actually keep a migraine from coming on.

Doctors said that’s the safest choice, in addition to lifestyle changes, like avoiding caffeine and getting plenty of exercise and rest.

For more information you can visit