January 4, 2011

War's Effects on the Brain

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Post-traumatic stress has longer lasting effects than concussion, study finds

(dailyRx News) Soldiers returning from combat experience more complications due to PTSD than concussions, a recent study finds.

Almost two million troops have been sent to fight since 2001 and those fortunate enough to return home often experience physical health complications due to blast exposure, concussion and other injuries. However, post-traumatic stress seems to have a longer lasting effect than concussions and other mild brain injuries.

PTSD can cause physical symptoms such as headaches and hearing loss, as well as emotional and mental problems from concentrating to memory. Traumatic experiences can often leave residual feelings of panic and anxiety that do not go away long after the event has passed, leading to post-traumatic stress. PTSD is common in veterans due to the extreme life-or-death situations of war and exposure to death and injury.

The Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System and the University of Minnesota recently teamed up to study the long term effects of concussion and PTSD on troops returning from Iraq. Nearly a thousand U.S. soldiers were surveyed, the majority of them white males under the age of 30 who were enlisted rank (meaning that they were not officers). Soldiers were surveyed right before returning home and again a year later.

The first survey showed slightly less than 8 percent who had signs of likely PTSD. By the time of the second survey a year later, that number had more than doubled. The rates at which soldiers reported concussions was consistent in relation to those who exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress, but the two were not found to be connected.

The results of this study shows that while both concussion injuries and PTSD are serious problems facing the troops, the two must be looked at separately and treatment should be adjusted accordingly. Currently, psychotherapy and medications are two ways people are dealing with post-traumatic stress. Post-concussion syndrome symtoms are treated on a case-by-case basis; there is no specific treatment.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
January 4, 2011

Last Updated:
January 5, 2011