The VA and various research organizations are looking at possible causes of Gulf War Veterans’ chronic multi-symptom illnesses. Vaccinations are one of the possibilities being considered. Soldiers serving in the Gulf War received a standard series of vaccinations against infectious diseases including yellow fever, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis B, meningitis, whooping cough, polio, and tetanus. About 150,000 troops were inoculated against Anthrax, and another 8,000 troops were vaccinated against Botulinum (the toxin that causes botulism).
Gulf War Veterans exhibiting signs of vague, unidentified illnesses may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including a Gulf War Registry health exam, health care, and disability compensation for diseases related to their military service. Dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.
The Institute of Medicine concluded in its Gulf War and Health report that there is inadequate or insufficient evidence to determine whether an association does or does not exist between multiple vaccinations and long-term adverse health problems. For more information, go to: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/sources/vaccinations.asp#sthash.sExDmKZW.dpuf
I see a lot of veterans who wonder if they’ll ever be able to get their pain under control. They put off going to medical appointments because they think they’ve lived with the pain so long nothing will really help. If this sounds like you, don’t give up! Good pain management can vastly improve your quality of life.
Pain not only keeps you from doing the things you enjoy, it may also leave you exhausted and unwilling to spend time with your family and friends. It can affect your relationships, your mood and your ability to think straight. And pain can make it hard to eat or sleep, which makes your other symptoms worse.
Pain management means making a plan for keeping your pain under control. One of the key factors involves taking your medications on a regular basis, even when you think your pain is so much better you don’t need to take them. If you stop taking your meds because they worked and you aren’t in pain at the moment, then a pain crisis can develop and it becomes much more difficult to get your pain back under control.
Other ways of handling pain may involve using different medications to see which work best, and adjusting dosages to find the most effective amount. You may want to keep a pain journal. By writing down when you’re in pain and how strong it is helps your care team learn what’s affecting your pain levels.
You can also consider using alternative treatment modalities such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage, or music therapy. While these treatments may not seem like they’d do the trick, the big issue is getting your focus off your pain so it can fade into the background. Whatever it takes, don’t give up!
Sometimes when disaster strikes, there are hidden victims. Veterans who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may find that catastrophes cause an increase in anxiety, irritability, flashbacks, hypervigilance, sleep difficulties, and the other symptoms of PTSD.
Following the Boston Marathon bombing, some Veterans found their symptoms of PTSD returning or escalating. The Boston Globe reported that there were Veterans who called in sick during the days immediately following the bombing, and one alcoholic veteran who was on the wagon, resumed drinking. For others, it triggered flashbacks of their wartime experiences.
Unfortunately, the Boston Marathon isn’t the only trigger in recent memory that Veterans have to contend with. Television coverage of disasters and other horrific events such as the falling of the Twin Towers may cause Veterans to re-experience trauma they’d been trying to forget for years. While we can appreciate how television makes events real to us, sometimes it can become too real.
Studies are currently underway to determine to what extent combat Veterans are affected by disaster. By knowing that veterans with PTSD may have their symptoms exacerbate following a disaster, we can be prepared to offer additional support to help them cope.
Sources for Coping with PTSD:
Understanding PTSD Booklet
This eight-page booklet explains what PTSD is, provides information and resources on support, and shares real stories from people who have dealt effectively with PTSD.
Understanding PTSD Treatment
This eight-page booklet explains in detail the various proven ways to treat PTSD and debunks some myths about treatment.
National Center for PTSD
Explore this comprehensive website for detailed information about PTSD, its effects and treatment, and resources for support. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/index.asp
VA’s PTSD Program Locator
This site will allow you to search for PTSD programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s PTSD treatment programs. http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/ptsd_flsh.asp
Many soldiers serving in the military today are experiencing traumatic brain injury (TBI) as result of trauma from a nearby blast or explosion. TBI can cause changes in a person’s ability to think, control emotions, walk, or speak, and can also affect sense of sight or hearing.
Physical effects may include: headaches, difficulty speaking, blurry eyesight, loss of hearing, fatigue, changes in sense of taste or smell, or dizziness.
Cognitive effects may include: problems concentrating and paying attention, forgetfulness, or difficulty making decisions.
Behavioral effects may include: anger issues, frustration, and acting without thinking.
Symptoms may vary, and sometimes change as recovery takes place. At times, the effects may be immediately evident; other times soldiers may not realize the extent of the damage that has occurred.
If left untreated, the effects of TBI can have a very negative effect on the person’s life, and on relationships with others. Ignoring symptoms may actually make the symptoms worse.
Some things you can do to cope with TBI:
• Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
• Write things down if you have trouble remembering
• Develop and maintain a regular, daily routine
• Avoid alcohol
• Avoid caffeine, cold medications, or other products that contain pseudoephedrine—they may increase symptoms
• Recognize triggers—keep a record to help identify situations that are more likely to worsen symptoms
• Find alternate things to do such as a hobby or a recreational activity
• Talk to others—to prevent isolation
• Remember that symptoms are a normal part of the recovery, and they will get better.