Army personnel show increased risk for migraine

August 27, 2008

Two new studies show that migraine headaches are very common among U.S. military personnel, yet the condition is frequently underdiagnosed. The studies, appearing in Headache, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Headache Society, examine the incidence among soldiers within 10 days of returning from a 1-year combat tour in Iraq , as well as U.S. Army officer trainees.

The U.S. active-duty military population is composed chiefly of young adults, which is the age group at highest risk for migraine. However, the reported rates are higher than those of similar age and gender in the general U.S. population.

The findings show that 19 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq screened positive for migraine and an additional 17 percent screened positive for possible migraine. Soldiers with a positive migraine screen suffered a mean average of 3.1 headache days per month, headache durations of 5.2 hours and 2.4 impaired duty days per month due to headache. Soldiers with migraine contacted 3 months after returning from Iraq had a mean of 5.3 headache days per month.

18 percent of U.S. Army officer trainees experienced migraine headaches over a 1-year period (13.9 percent for males, 31.4 percent for females) and, of those, 50 percent experienced migraines during a 5-week period of intensive military training. Migraine headaches were found to significantly impede training in 4 percent of all cadets during this time. 76 percent of cadets who screened positive for migraine had never been diagnosed.

Military personnel are likely to encounter numerous physiological and psychological factors that are known to precipitate migraine attacks and exacerbate migraine disorder. The factors include disrupted sleep and meal patterns, fatigue, psychological stress, emotional strain, heat, noise and other environmental exposures. The effects of migraine have specific consequences for military personnel in that migraine can impair their ability to function and may result in soldiers being non-deployable or discharged from military service.

Migraine is frequently incapacitating, however if it is properly diagnosed and treated the ill effects of migraine can be reduced or eliminated. The findings show, however, that there is a low utilization rate of triptans, which are first line agents for treating acute migraine among this population. 75 percent of the soldiers with migraine used over-the-counter analgesics and only 4 percent used triptans.

"Our hope is that this research will improve the screening process for migraine in soldiers and increase education about migraine for soldiers and their health-care providers. U.S. military personnel should receive the best health care available, and improving the diagnosis and treatment of migraine will likely improve soldier's personal and professional functioning," say Erek K Helseth M.D. and Captain Brett J. Theeler M.D., lead authors of the two studies.

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Headaches take toll on soldiers

Related Stories

Headaches take toll on soldiers

October 18, 2011
Troops evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan with headaches unlikely to return to duty; heavy helmets a major factor Headaches, a virtually universal human complaint at one time or another, are among the top reasons for medical ...

Soldiers claim illness after guarding KBR in Iraq

October 10, 2012
(AP)—A war contractor knew a critical southern Iraq oilfield plant was riddled with a well-known toxin but ignored the risk to soldiers while hurrying the project along, firing a whistleblower and covering up the presence ...

Aerobic exercise shows promise for treatment of wounded warriors with mild traumatic brain

January 25, 2017
Improvised explosive devices and associated blast injuries have left over 350,000 U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan with an invisible wound: traumatic brain injury.

Recommended for you

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

How pomegranate extract alters breast cancer stem cell properties

November 15, 2017
A University at Albany research team has found evidence suggesting that the same antioxidant that gives pomegranate fruit their vibrant red color can alter the characteristics of breast cancer stem cells, showing the superfood's ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet Aug 27, 2008
My own discovery that PHOSFORIC ACID (found in coke, pepsi, Dr. Pepper)was a direct cause of my migrane headaches was shared with many suffers who found also "cause and effect" relationship.
Please consider this for returning service men.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.