Friday, March 04, 2011

Guest Post: "Raise Awareness of Invisible Wounds"

(I was contacted by a gentleman named Tim Elliot, who describes himself as " a lifelong supporter of our troops and a dedicated advocate of veterans' benefits". and he requested a chance to do a guest post on here. I share below with you what he sent me to post for him. If you would like to contact Mr. Elliot, his email address is  )

Support Our Troops- Raise Awareness of Invisible Wounds

Everyone knows that our soldiers and veterans deserve our support! Not only while on their tours of active duty serving our country all around the world, but also when they come home. Even while they are not on the front lines serious problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur, and soldiers and veterans can need our support even long after they’ve finished their active duty as well.

PTSD has been a serious problem confronting soldiers since the very beginning of military combat, and is a deadly serious anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event. Because PTSD is an anxiety disorder it can be very difficult to diagnose, but the symptoms include emotional numbness, flashbacks to the trauma, and hyperarousal. PTSD is more prevalent in soldiers than civilians because it commonly occurs after events where the victim believes that their life or the lives of others are in serious danger. PTSD is a remarkably serious medical condition, and last year the VA estimated that nearly 18 veterans a day committed suicide each day from untreated PTSD. While treatment for PTSD, usually cognitive behavioral therapy which works to change the way a victim think of their trauma, can be a lengthy and difficult process it has had proven success and with support from the community veterans and soldiers with PTSD can recover.

TBI, which is often called the signature wound of the war on terror, is a bit more of a modern problem that soldiers commonly face. A TBI most commonly occurs when the brain is bruised from a violent collision and is particularly dangerous if soldiers don’t realize that they have had a TBI. Some of the symptoms of TBI include headaches, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, a ringing in the ears, changes in sleep patterns, mood changes, and troubles with memory, attention, or thinking and more serious TBIs also characterized by a splitting headache. Unfortunately there is little that can be done to fix the original trauma to the brain, but it’s extremely important for soldiers who have suffered a TBI to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure that there is proper oxygen flow to the brain and prevent further injury. Most TBI’s are mild enough that with therapy veterans who receive medical attention recover nearly all of their functions.

While PTSD and TBI get the lion’s share of the attention, there’s also another medical problem that many veterans need to be careful of as well. Because up until the 1970’s (when it was discovered asbestos was dangerous) the military commonly used asbestos, many veterans are developing mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, stomach, and heart that comes from being exposed to asbestos. Because mesothelioma often lies dormant for 20-50 years and mesothelioma symptoms, particularly a shortness of breath or a fluid build-up in the lungs, are so similar to several other less serious diseases mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed and untreated until the tumor has spread through-out the body. However with regular screenings for mesothelioma, veterans can find it early enough that the surgical removal of the tumor is an option.

What PTSD, TBI, and mesothelioma all share in common is that they are can be very difficult to diagnosis. Because these injuries often have little to no physical markings they are often grouped together as “invisible wounds”. Furthermore, because early recognition and diagnosis of these injuries can prove to make the difference between life and death, one of the most important ways we can support our troops is to continue raising awareness and turn the spotlight on these “invisible wounds”

(Thank you, Tim, for your informative and thought-provoking post-Kathi )
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