Objectives.— To assess the prevalence and impact of migraine headaches in US Army soldiers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Methods.— A brigade of US Army soldiers stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washingtion was given a self-administered headache questionnaire within 10 days of return from a 1-year combat tour in Iraq. Soldiers who screened positive for migraine were surveyed again by phone 3 months after return from Iraq.
Results.— In total, 19% of soldiers screened positive for migraine and 17% for possible migraine. Soldiers with a positive migraine screen had a mean of 3.1 headache days per month, a mean headache duration of 5.2 hours, and a mean of 2.4 impaired duty days per month due to headache. Soldiers with migraine made a total of 490 sick call visits for headache over a 3-month period compared with 90 sick call visits among those with possible migraine. In all, 75% of the soldiers with migraine used over-the-counter analgesics and only 4% used triptans. Soldiers with migraine contacted 3 months after returning from Iraq had a mean of 5.3 headache days per month and 36% had a Migraine Disability Assessment Scale grade of 3 or 4.
Conclusions.— Migraine headaches are common in deployed US Army soldiers exceeding the expected prevalence. These headaches result in impaired duty performance and are a frequent cause of sick call visits. Migraine headaches tend to persist after deployment in many soldiers.