Migraine and other headache disorders can take an immense toll on a Veteran’s physical and emotional health. From the physiological symptoms that can cause debilitating pain to the negative impact they may have on relationships or professional endeavors, these conditions can unfortunately follow a service member home long after their deployment.
Although medically classified as a “headache disorder,” migraine has very distinct differences from what many would consider a typical headache. In addition to the presence of severe and/or lasting head pain, migraine attacks are characterized by other symptoms which may include: nausea; sensitivity to sound or touch; dizziness; and more. Another key indicator is migraine light sensitivity and other visual disturbances that are frequently reported by people with the condition. Ultimately, all of these symptoms reflect the neurological basis for migraine—indicating hyperreactivity in the brain that is often triggered by external stimuli. Moreover, attacks can last for hours or even days, and are considered chronic if a person experiences more than 15 in a month.
Unfortunately, Veterans are more likely to develop migraine or other persistent headache disorders than their civilian counterparts, according to research. In fact, one study showed that 36 percent of Veterans who had completed a 12-month deployment to Iraq were either diagnosed with or exhibited symptoms of migraine. In comparison, it has been estimated that migraine affects approximately 12 percent of the general population.
Although there have been broad genetic links to migraine, many researchers believe Veterans are likely to develop the condition as a