Headaches among soldiers in their last three months of a tour of combat are 36% — more than twice — higher than the general US population experiences, according to a study presented at the American Headache Society‘s annual meeting. Even more interesting is that 93% of soldiers screened were men. In general, about three times as many women as men in the US have headache disorders.
A ton of possible triggers are there: stress (obviously), disrupted routine, new environment and weather, and food. I also wonder what their rates of depression are.
Check out the abstract for details:
TITLE: Prevalence and Impact of Migraine Among U.S. Army Soldiers Deployed to a Combat Theater
Objectives: To determine the prevalence, impact, and treatment of migraine headaches among U.S. Army soldiers participating in combat operations in Iraq.
Background: The prevalence and impact of migraines in military personnel serving in a combat theater have not been previously reported.
Methods: A brigade of soldiers from Ft. Lewis, Washington was screened with a validated headache questionnaire immediately upon returning from a 1-year tour of combat duty in Iraq. Headache symptoms during the last 3 months of deployment were sought. Headaches were classified into definite migraine, probable migraine, or non-migraine headache using IHS [International Headache Society] criteria.
Results: 2,725 soldiers were screened. 93% were men and 7% were women. The mean age was 27.4 years. 19% (518/2725) of soldiers reported headaches meeting criteria for definite migraine, 17.5% (476/2725) reported headaches meeting criteria for probable migraine, and 11.4% (312/2725) had non-migraine headaches. Only 5% (124/2725) of soldiers carried a previous diagnosis of migraine. The mean number of headache days per month was 3 for definite migraine, 1.5 for probable migraine, and 1 for non-migraine. The mean number of duty days impaired by headache over a 3 month period was 7.2 +/- 2 for definite migraine, 2.0 +/- 1 for probable migraine, and 1.7 +/- 0.5 for non-migraine. 473 sick call visits for acute headache were collectively made over a 3-month period by soldiers with definite migraine, 76 were made by soldiers with probable migraine, and 17 were made by soldiers with non-migraine headache. Only 3% (30/993) of soldiers with definite or probable migraine used triptan medication.
Conclusions: Migraine headaches are unexpectedly common among military personnel serving in a combat zone, affecting approximately 36% of U.S. Army soldiers. Migraine headaches adversely impact the ability of deployed soldiers to perform their military duties and are a common cause of sick call visits. The results also suggest that migraine headaches are sub-optimally managed in deployed military personnel.