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Honoring the Resilience: Migraine in the Military Service

Under: Migraine

The Invisible Battle

If you suffer from migraine headaches, you understand how debilitating and incapacitating they can be. Now, imagine enduring the rigorous training that soldiers undergo while experiencing a migraine. Picture being in life-threatening situations, required to perform and make split-second decisions, all while grappling with the intense pain and potential visual and cognitive disturbances (aura) that accompany some migraines.

The prevalence of migraine among active military personnel is significantly higher than in the general population. Approximately 12% of the U.S. population and 20% of service members suffer migraine.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that veterans are more likely to experience migraine and headaches than non-veterans. About 36% of U.S. veterans who served a one-year deployment to Iraq were diagnosed with migraine or showed signs of migraine, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Triggers in the Line of Duty

Military personnel experience many of the same migraine triggers as civilians, but some factors are more prevalent due to the unique demands of military service. Common migraine triggers for military members include:

Environmental factors like exposure to bright lights, loud noises, extreme temperatures, and chemical irritants, which are common in combat zones and training environments.
Stress is a major trigger, affecting 67% of military personnel with migraines. The high-stress nature of military operations, deployments, and training can precipitate migraine attacks.

Fatigue and sleep disruptions are frequent triggers, affecting 57% of military migraineurs. Irregular sleep patterns and lack of rest are common issues during deployments and operations.
Consumption-related triggers like skipping meals, dehydration, alcohol, and caffeine withdrawal affect 60% of military personnel with migraines. Disrupted eating and drinking patterns are common during deployments.

Head trauma and mild traumatic brain injuries sustained during combat or training can also trigger migraines and post-traumatic headaches in military personnel.
While the types of triggers are similar for military and civilian populations, the unique stressors and environmental exposures of military life make service members more susceptible to these migraine precipitants.

A Call to Action: Supporting Our Troops

Emphasizing the need for improved migraine education, screening, and access to treatment for military personnel, and calling for support from the broader community to ensure the well-being of our service members.

Improved migraine education, screening, and access to treatment for military personnel are imperative to ensuring the well-being and readiness of our service members. Migraines, often debilitating, can significantly impair the physical and mental performance of those who serve, affecting not only their health but also their ability to carry out their duties effectively.

Despite the high prevalence of migraines among military personnel, many remain undiagnosed or inadequately treated due to a lack of awareness and accessible care. Therefore, it is crucial for the broader community to support initiatives aimed at enhancing migraine education, implementing thorough screening processes, and ensuring comprehensive treatment options are readily available.

By prioritizing the health of our service members, we honor their dedication and sacrifice, ultimately strengthening the resilience and operational capacity of our armed forces.