The most well-known problem that veterans face after they come home from combat is post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Several programs are set up to raise awareness of the disorder and help treat it in victims. However, there are several problems that returning military members and veterans face that are not as widely known or addressed. Although all of these could also inflict any civilian, many military members will find that many of their health issues stem from or were aggravated by combat service.
Support our troops and veterans by understanding these five potential challenges they face because of their service.
Understanding Veteran Issues & Challenges
Depression is one mental health issue that may manifest after combat service. In fact, the rate of depression in veterans is about 5 times as high as in civilians. Depression comes in a range of severity and types. Different types of depression include brain injury depression, late life depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is not a comprehensive list, but it helps illustrate the fact that depression is not simply classified as someone feeling blue. As with other mental health issues, the VA has several programs available that help veterans get back to a point where they feel like themselves again.
The rate of illegal drug use is much lower with military members than with civilians. However, alcohol and drug abuse is far more prevalent, and substance abuse often leads to many problems in all areas of a veteran’s life. A vet may develop a substance use disorder (SUD) in response to high levels of stress, various medical conditions, or mental health issues. Methods proven to help in the recovery process are available through the VA and through several civilian groups.
Serving in a conflict area could result in any number of physical injuries that include limb loss and scarring. Statistics show that 1 in 10 veterans suffered a serious injury while serving, and the stats also show that vets who were injured were more likely to develop further health issues than those who weren’t.
It is mandatory for service members to receive vaccinations prior to deployment, but that doesn’t mean there is no risk of contracting infectious diseases. Vaccines simply do not exist for some diseases, and as a result, military personnel and veterans suffer from certain infections and other illnesses far more often than civilians are even exposed to them. Some of these affect veterans for lengthy periods of time, and it’s important to recognize these illnesses in order to treat them in a timely manner to avoid more serious issues. Take a look . . .
- Brucellosis is called by several names, including Malta fever, Mediterranean fever, and undulant fever. It is a rare infection that mostly causes remit-tent fevers, back pain, weight loss, and appetite loss. It is contracted through contact with infected animals.
- Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common worldwide bacterial causes of diarrhea and is far more prevalent in underdeveloped countries. It is primarily a food borne illness.
- Coxiella burnetii infects after contact with a contaminated environment. Within a few weeks, infected people often develop Q fever, which manifests itself with symptoms such as high fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, and non-productive coughs, among others.
- Leishmaniasis is a disease that is contracted mainly in tropical and subtropical areas, and even in the Middle East, through sand fly bites. It has two forms: cutaneous and visceral. Symptoms include weight loss, an enlarged liver and spleen, skin sores, swollen glands, fever, and low blood counts in white and/or red blood cells. If left untreated, this disease could prove fatal.
Exposure to Noise and Vibration
Troops and veterans who experienced prolonged exposure to gunfire, aircraft, and even noisy engine rooms could experience hearing impairment and loss. Vibration exposure can also lead to irreversible side effects like lower back pain and hand and finger numbness.
TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)
While in combat, it is highly likely that a service member will receive a blow to the head, which could result in a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. This is so common that it has come to be known as the “signature wound of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq,” and in fact, 20 percent of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are suspected of having a TBI. The brain is the control center to the rest of the body, so as you can imagine, injuring it causes a long list of problems, both short term and long term. These side effects go beyond bumps and bruises, generally affecting a veteran’s daily life. Military personnel and veterans with TBI might experience language disabilities, a shorter attention span than usual, a dramatic change in personality, and even an inability to process information.
Recognize, React, and Recover
PTSD can be debilitating and can dramatically change a person’s life. At Low VA Rates, we understand that the problems veterans face after combat include far more than just PTSD. The first step regarding any problem is recognizing that it exists. After that, it is vitally important to react by seeking the help that you need to start on the recovery path. If you believe a loved one is experiencing one of the problems listed above, explore helpful options and show them your support.