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AHS: Migraine Prevalence High in U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Headaches affect more than a third of combat personnel and prompt sick-call visits

TUESDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Migraine headaches affect U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq at twice the rate of their civilian counterparts on American soil, according to a study presented at the American Headache Society's annual scientific meeting in Los Angeles.

At Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington, a brigade returning from a year of active duty was screened for headaches that had occurred during the final three months of deployment. Thirty-six percent were found to have experienced headaches that either matched migraine criteria (518 of 2,725) or had symptoms consistent with probable migraine (476 of 2,725), said Brett Theeler, M.D., a neurology resident and author of the study.

Soldiers with migraine made 477 sick-call visits and reported headaches an average of three days per month, but of the two groups suspected of having migraine, only 21 soldiers received a triptan, considered the most effective medication.

The findings suggest migraine headaches are not optimally managed in this group, Theeler said. "We're not exactly sure why migraines are so common in this group but it is likely there are numerous factors, including stress, trauma, headgear, lack of sleep, exposure to chemicals and changes in diet, all of which can trigger migraines," he said.


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