The wounds of battle stretch far beyond a few fractured bones and usually range from illnesses that persist for a long time to mental health issues. War veterans face numerous health problems after completing their service. Most of these health issues are more frequent than the ones we see in the general population as a whole. They range from psychological to physical abnormalities to amputation and so forth. After all, war can take its toll on even the toughest of soldiers or military personnel. That said, like the health issues themselves, these individuals have unique healthcare needs as well. It is something that requires a collaborative effort and the knowledge and presence of a supportive local community.
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Moreover, we cannot classify some of these issues as a single medical problem because they include unspecific symptoms like cognitive abnormalities, pains, and diseases. Plus, loss of memory and concentration issues are also common for soldiers returning from the battlefield. So, suppose you know someone who recently returned from war. In that case, you need to consider the health issues mentioned below to ensure that they get the medical assistance they require. Therefore, without further ado, let’s discuss them:
Deadly diseases contracted on the battlefield
Most Americans know a friend or family member who is a war veteran. While it is advisable to honor them, we forget their sacrifices to their lives and health during active service. One of the most common on-the-battlefield health concerns includes exposure to dangerous chemical and mineral. For example, asbestos exposure is quite common amongst veterans that have been around old, war-damaged buildings. As a result, they might develop asbestosis or mesothelioma. It’s a cancer type that attacks the lining of the stomach or lungs and is unfortunately incurable. Nonetheless, veterans who’ve come in contact with asbestos should consult with the Mesothelioma Veterans Center to get the support they need.
Similarly, they might’ve been exposed to harmful war chemicals such as sarin gas, which can lead to long-term heart damage.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Regardless of their age and gender, PTSD is a prevalent mental condition in most war veterans. It results from experiencing or witnessing traumatic events during a war scenario. That said, PTSD isn’t limited to frontline soldiers. However, veterans experience PTSD around four times more than non-military personnel (36 percent of veterans versus 8 percent of non-military individuals). That said, a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis is contingent upon four symptom types: exaggerated startle response, lack of trust, isolation, and flashbacks. Veterans experiencing PTSD will most likely suffer from drug addiction, sleep issues, and other psychological problems.
However, treatment is possible with the appropriate support and medication. Moreover, governing bodies and healthcare leaders have developed evidence-based guidelines and screening tools to treat war veterans who have PTSD.
Musculoskeletal pain and injury
According to various studies, around half of the veterans who have participated in war report knee, shoulder, neck, and back pain during their post-deployment health checkups. Furthermore, a Journal of Pain study states that around 100,000 Gulf war veterans suffered from chronic muscle pain 20 years after deployment. After all, carrying around heavy backpacks and other war-essential gear will ultimately take a toll on a veteran’s body, resulting in various physical issues.
That said, doctors and medical facilities suggest that these veterans follow a regular, sustained exercise routine to help avoid disability and manage their pain.
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), depression tops the list of health issues veterans face from active duty. It explains why there’s a 14 percent diagnosis rate for depression amongst veterans. Surprisingly, NAMI believes that most of these veterans are also underdiagnosed. Moreover, they found that individuals experiencing PTSD have a higher chance of facing depression.
Regardless of its severity, depression is still treatable, with a success rate between 80 and 90 percent. Such treatments include electroconvulsive therapy, psychotherapy, or medication. So, if you know a war veteran who has been suffering from depression, get them the help and support they need.
Loss of limbs
According to the American Department of Defense, thousands of troops have lost their limbs while participating in wars worldwide. Just imagine a grenade exploding near you, separating your limbs from your body. It is a traumatic experience and can lead to depression when troops return to daily life. Moreover, traumatic amputations and bodily disfigurement also cause tons of employment and social barriers.
However, healthcare facilities and leaders must be ready to address the physical and mental concerns that veterans experience after amputation. They should devise a rigorous approach and employ medical rehabilitation, prosthesis, sensory aids, and counseling to heal wounded soldiers.
Brain injury results from a jolt or blows to the head. It affects or disrupts the brain’s regular functioning. Typically, it is common amongst veterans returning from active duty in foreign countries. Similarly, combat-related injuries and blast exposure put frontline soldiers at an increased risk of sustaining brain injuries than those who work in a more behind-the-desk role.
So, if you know someone who suffers from a combat-related head injury, it is wise to help them in their path to recovery.
The breadth and depth of health issues faced by war veterans depend on various factors. In addition, previous wars continue to teach us that these health issues peak many years after completing active duty. Due to this, the government and the VA must always be prepared to deliver the medical assistance and service veterans require.