Prevalence and Impact of Migraine Among US Army Soldiers Deployed in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom


  • The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

  • Conflict of Interest: None

B.J. Theeler, Madigan Army Medical Center, Neurology Service, 9040A Fitzsimmons Dr., Tacoma, WA 98431, USA.


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.