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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Study: 1-in-5 Iraq Vets Diagnosed with Migraines, Suffer Higher Rates of Depression and PTSD

From Health Day News (via WaPo):

Almost one in every five U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq is being diagnosed with migraines, and this group has nearly double the risk for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric troubles, a new study finds.

"Any health-care provider who is evaluating a combat veteran for headaches should perform a mental health screen to ensure that comorbid psychiatric conditions are being identified and treated," said study author Maj. Jay C. Erickson, M.D., a neurologist at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, in Tacoma, Wash.

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[It is] the first such study conducted in a military population, [and] "it is also the first study to look at the link between migraine and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," Erickson said.

In the study, Erickson's team analyzed questionnaires filled out by almost 2,200 U.S. Army soldiers within 90 days of their return from a year of combat duty in Iraq. Most of the veterans "did have significant exposure to combat situations" while serving in Iraq, Erickson noted.

According to the researchers, 19 percent of the veterans were found to suffer from migraine headaches, 32 percent tested positive for depression, 22 percent met the standard for PTSD, and 13 percent tested positive for anxiety.

Half of the soldiers who suffered from migraines were also clinically depressed, compared to just 27 percent of those without the painful headaches, the researchers reported. And 39 percent of migraine sufferers were also deemed to have PTSD, compared to just 18 percent of soldiers without migraines. Anxiety disorders were also higher among migraine-prone veterans (22 percent) compared to those without the headaches (10 percent). ...

It's also difficult to assess whether the pain of migraine helps trigger depression and anxiety in returning soldiers, or whether these types of psychological ills help spur migraines. ...

Erickson believes the new findings should serve as a wake-up call to military and civilian doctors to look a bit further whenever they spot migraines in a patient, because those headaches could point to psychological troubles, as well.

"That's the main recommendation here," he said.

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