Soldiers returning from Iraq with migraine headaches often have an increased risk for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, Army doctors said Thursday.

About 19 percent of veterans from the Iraq combat zone reported headaches consistent with migraine, said Maj. Jay Erickson, a neurologist at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.

"In the general population of men of the soldiers' age group, the rate of migraine is about 10 percent," Erickson told United Press International, "so the rate we are seeing in returning troops is about twice what we would expect in the general population."

Erickson and colleagues questioned 2,167 soldiers within 90 days of returning to the United States after deployment to Iraq, Erickson said in a presentation at the 59th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston.

He said that of those men questioned, 32 percent screened positive for depression, 22 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder, and 13 percent screened positive for anxiety.

When he compared the soldiers -- 96 percent of whom were men -- who complained of migraine with other returning soldiers who did not have migraines, Erickson found:

-- About half the soldiers with migraine showed signs of clinical depression compared with 27 percent of those who did not suffer migraine.

-- About 39 percent of the soldiers with migraine showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, compared with 18 percent of those who did not suffer migraine.

-- About 13 percent of the soldiers with migraine showed signs of anxiety, compared with 10 percent of those who did not suffer migraine.

"These percentages are higher than one would expect in the general population," Alan Manevitz, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Weill Medical School of Cornell University in New York, "but they are not completely surprising."

He said that soldiers who face the constant threat of being shot at or being blown up without any warning are likely to have a buildup of neurotransmitters than can actually result in permanent changes in the brain.

Manevitz told UPI, "I would expect to see these same types of psychological problems among the civilian population of Iraq as well."

He explained that if a person was continually overfed glucose, it would modify the person's metabolism and create a permanent diabetic condition.

"The same is true of the brain," he explained. If a person is continually bombarded with danger signals, that person is more likely to permanently transform the brain to stimulate triggers for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and even migraine.

Manevitz said that diagnoses can be made more frequently and more accurately because doctors have better imaging and psychological testing tools.

Erickson said the study was initiated in order to determine if previous findings in the general population that indicated greater incidence of psychological problems in the migraine sufferers was true for the military.

"These findings should alert healthcare providers, especially those affiliated with the military or veteran healthcare systems, about the frequent association of migraine headaches and psychiatric conditions in soldiers returning from deployment," he said.