Soldiers Troubled by Migraines in High Numbers
> 10/13/2006 9:50:48 AM

As much as 40% of soldiers returning from Iraq deal with migraines or probable migraines according to research reported in Clinical Psychiatry News. While only 5% of those who were surveyed reported prior history of migraines, 19% were found to have definite migraines and another 18% had probable migraines. Maybe most disturbing however, is that only 2% reported having received triptans, a commonly used treatment for headaches that was introduced in the 1990s.

Capt. Brett Theeler, who collaborated on the research, points out that the triggers or causes of these headaches are difficult to avoid:

The causes of headaches among soldiers in Iraq are similar to “common migraine triggers for the general population: stress, heat, irregular diets. All those things are, of course, present in Iraq,” Capt. Theeler noted.

Truly, avoiding these triggers is not an option on the battlefield, and so, as Capt. Theeler also notes, the goal should instead be to increase education about the problem. If we make sure that incoming soldiers are aware of the prevalence of migraine headaches in the battlefield, know the symptoms that they should look for and understand that there are treatment options available, we should be able to alleviate, if not solve, a great deal of the problem.

As with other chronic conditions that occur on the battlefield, and especially mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders, the real fear is that if left untreated, the problem can lead to a drop off in performance or battle readiness as well as other issues such as substance abuse. In the civilian world, a problem like migraines can lead to work loss, sleep debt and depression, all things that can drastically lower quality of life. But on the battlefield, these issues become matters of life and death.

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