Migraines and the Military



Nearly 8% of all men and 12% of all women in the United States suffer from migraine headaches.  Most migraine sufferers have gone to the doctor and gotten some sort of medication – usually triptans – to subdue these headaches.
Some migraine sufferers use natural or holistic methods to control migraines, and others use a combination of medication and other methods to keep their migraines to a minimum.

Individuals in the military are no exception.  They get migraines right along with the rest of the nation and they need ways to deal with these debilitating headaches.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to get as much help as the general public when it comes to relieving migraine symptoms.

Recently results of a retroactive study were released involving soldiers returning from Iraq.  The study focused on soldiers with migraines and the treatment that was afforded them.  The results were somewhat surprising and disappointing.

Over 2700 soldiers were screened.  19% (518) had migraine headaches during their tour of duty.  Another 17.5% (476) met the criteria for probable migraines.  This combines to show over 36% of the troops in the study suffered from migraines, which is a number 3 times the amount of the general population.

There are many obvious reasons for this number, though the percentage was not expected to be nearly that high.  Lack of proper, comfortable, uninterrupted sleep is one reason for the higher percentage.  Sleep problems are a huge trigger for migraines, and these are built into a combat soldier’s life.  In addition, extreme heat, chemical fumes, dehydration, pressures in aircraft, and disruptive meal patterns were cited.  The heat in their uniforms alone was also considered a trigger.

These triggers are not surprises.  What was a surprise to researchers was that these migraine headaches were not controlled by triptans, which are the most common medications to prevent and treat migraines.  Of all organizations, the military has access to any medications it needs, and to leave individuals suffering with little or no relief when relief is easily available is not only unfair and unkind, but negligent.   Triptans not only treat migraines by stopping them at the first sign of the headaches, but also by being used on a regular basis to avoid and eliminate migraines.  This means that many of the soldiers who experienced migraines in Iraq (or other places) could have avoided the suffering from a migraine or from migraines that they were having regularly by taking the medication to prevent them.

The United States expects a great deal of its military men and women, especially right now with troops in the Middle East and elsewhere.  It is not unreasonable to expect that the country should take care of the individuals who are called to serve by simply providing them with the medical care that they need. 


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