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The incurable, invisible disease military members battle when they come home

It's considered an invisible disease because there are no outward signs, but countless veterans are coming home from combat feeling its effects.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jeremy Jackson spent two decades with the U.S. Army, deploying five times between Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he is stationed in Fort Knox and looking at an early leave because of PTSD and migraines.

"I'm likely to be medically retired soon," Jackson said.

Jackson's managed the post-traumatic stress, but if you were to ask what his pain level was when the migraines hit, he'd tell you it was off the charts.

"It's like someone parked a train on top of my head," he said.

Jackson said the migraines started around his first IED blast in 2008 and then progressively got worse. He entered into the military as a mechanic and made his way through the ranks, now serving as an operations supervisor.

"I've been in rolled over vehicles, IEDs, mortar attacks, RPG attacks," Jackson said. "It puts a lot of pressure on your entire body if you're close enough."

Credit: Jeremy Jackson, US Army

When the migraines hit, Jackson suffers debilitating headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness and nausea. He puts himself in a dark room, with no noise or interruptions and is usually done with work for the rest of the day.

Once he returned home, he met Dr. Brian Plato with Norton Neuroscience Institute. Plato is a neurologist and headache specialist who sees many veterans come through his practice.

"They all have very different but similar stories," Dr. Plato said.

Many come to him for migraines, which are generally classified as an invisible disease because there are no outward signs. And without fully understanding what causes them, Dr. Plato said it's hard to combat.

Credit: Jeremy Jackson, US Army
"You get tossed around and banged around quite a bit," Jackson said.

"What we can do to treat a migraine, it's so much better now than what it formally was, but we still have a lot of progress to go.," Dr. Plato said.

There are treatments to reduce the frequency and severity, like Botox along with pills and self-injections to help ease the symptoms.  All three treatments help keep Jackson's migraines to a minimum. However, nothing has put an end to them.

"I don't think there's an answer to it, an end to it. I think it's one of those deals I'm just going to have to deal with," he said.

Jackson said many of his comrades suffer from the same type of migraines but suffer in silence for fear of losing their rank in the military. Both he and Dr. Plato agree, veteran or not, if migraines are keeping you from doing your job or other daily activities, you should seek medical treatment.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch atbhasch@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Hasch) andFacebook.

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