Post deployment illness Gulf War

The ground war lasted four days and resulted in 147 battlefield deaths, but almost 199,000 of the 698,000 people who were deployed have since qualified for some degree of service-related disability. Of those, 13,317 people are disabled by "undiagnosed conditions"; Medically Unexplained Symptoms; Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms (MUPS) or Unexplained Symptoms

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brains of vets with PTSD can change as they age

What is your Desert Storm Era vet and you have some of the undiagnosed illness. What if you have the brain fog along with symthoms of PTSD and years later the veteran has sympthoms of early dementia. They only place get an evalution inot this situation currently is VAMC San Francisco said Jagmedic

SAN FRANCISCO — Combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to have dementia, cardiac problems and structural changes in the brain as they get older than veterans without PTSD, according to new research.

The findings, which for the most part resulted from research at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, raise concerns about the overall health of aging veterans, but hold promise for the potential of helping to treat these diseases.

"Our concern is that veterans who honorably serve our country ... are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and over the next 10 to 20 years we will see a lot of Alzheimer's in the veteran population," said Dr. Michael Weiner, director of the institution's Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases.

The impact of combat on the aging brain was the focus of Thursday's fourth annual "Brain at War" conference in San Francisco.

Much of the research presented during the daylong conference was conducted at the city's VA hospital and funded through San Francisco's Northern California Institute for Research and Education, the nation's leading neuroscience research institute.

Of the 2 million Americans who've served in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least 400,000 -- or as much as 20 percent -- have developed or are at risk of developing PTSD, a psychological condition caused by exposure to severe trauma.

Some 23 million veterans will face more common illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's, as a function of aging. A growing body of work shows traumatic stress may exacerbate these diseases, the researchers found.

For example, veterans with PTSD are two to three times more likely to develop heart disease than those who do not have the disorder.

"No effective ways to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease yet exist, but researchers are studying soldiers' brains to learn more about how combat-related stress affects the brain's biology and increases the chance of developing Alzheimer's.

They have found that a section of the hippocampus -- the part of the brain devoted to short-term memory and learning new things -- is significantly smaller in veterans with PTSD. Researchers are trying to determine if this smaller section can grow with treatment.

"It's possible new stem cells, new brain cells are made, or it's possible the existing neurons or cells get plumper or have more synapses and connection," said

Weiner, also a professor of medicine, radiology, psychiatry and neurology." ... Our ability to probe the brain and understand these mechanisms is really limited."

"Humans are amazing in the sense they adapt to anything," he said.

Research at San Francisco's VA center has led to new information about:

- PTSD and heart disease. Veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been diagnosed with PTSD and other mental health issues have two to three times the rate of heart disease risk factors compared with veterans without those diagnoses.

- PTSD and the hippocampus. Research using magnetic resonate imaging, or MRI, at the VA hospital have shown the hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores memory, is significantly smaller in the brains of veterans with PTSD.

- PTSD and dementia. Older veterans with PTSD are almost twice as likely as veterans without such trauma to develop dementia.

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