COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Migraine headaches might have a particular impact on the local community. According to Dr. Mossadiq Jaffri, a neurologist at the Montgomery, Alabama VA Medical Center, military veterans can be more impacted by migraine due to factors including stress, anxiety, PTSD and depression.

According to a 2008 study which researched the impact of migraine on soldiers deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 19% of soldiers experienced migraine and an additional 17% had possible migraine. The CDC reported 12.3% of all participants to the 2018 National Health Interview survey had severe headaches or migraine in the three months before responding.

“Veterans have a unique population. … we do know the patient with anxiety and depression have more headaches and the patient with migraines have more mood disorders, so there is a bidirectional relationship,” Jaffri said.

Medical News Today reports a 2021 meta-analysis found depression impacted 23% of active-duty military members. The United States Department of Veteran Affairs also estimated in 2008 that as much as 33% of veterans visiting their clinics showed symptoms of depression.

Jaffri also explained factors like diet, hydration and sleep habits play a role in migraine. The neurologist said taking care to keep track of these can reduce migraine risk by 50 to 60%.

The American Migraine Foundation states one of the best prevention techniques for avoiding migraine is a diet which is “as wholesome, fresh and unprocessed as possible.” They report food triggers for migraine include alcohol, chocolate, caffeine and nitrates, amongst others. A 2021 study found dehydration can worsen primary headache disorders, such as migraine. 

According to the Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation, too much sleep has the potential to cause migraine, but poor sleep quality and a lack of REM sleep can also increase risk.

Kaden Schmittner, who was in Fort Moore’s Armor Officer Basic Leadership Course (ABOLC) program throughout the beginning of 2023, said he had no history of migraine before training began.

“Specifically, when I’m out in field environments that just disrupt my day-to-day tasks out there, they [migraines] kind of just knock me down,” said Schmittner, who was hospitalized at Martin Army Community Hospital earlier this year due to migraine.

He explained hospital staff told him his condition could have been impacted by his sleep, hydration and diet. Schmittner said he was also informed the hospital sees many people who have consumed Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) experiencing migraine.

Schmittner told WRBL his condition was treated with IV fluids, the anti-inflammatory drug Toradol, prescription Tylenol and over-the-counter Excedrin.

According to Jaffri, using over-the-counter drugs can be risky for migraine treatment. He said, “Unfortunately, the awful truth is that those medicines can make your migraines worse.”

The neurologist recommended seeking out a physician or health care provider to receive more effective treatment, estimating only 20% of migraine sufferers are getting professional help.

“It’s important to recognize migraines, these are treatable and we [medical professionals] can improve your quality of life. Headaches are not normal,” said the neurologist.

Jaffri explained symptoms of migraine include a headache of moderate-to-severe intensity which is typically one-sided, in the front of the head or on the temple. Migraine sufferers may also have light sensitivity, nausea, dizziness, sleepiness and low-back pain, all impairing a person’s ability to function.

He also mentioned younger people and women tend to be more commonly impacted by migraine than the general population.

Fort Moore currently has a population of over 120,000 active-duty military members according to the U.S. Army. The 2022 census reported Columbus hosted over 20,000 veterans between 2017 and 2021.