As a decade of combat in Iraq draws to a close and thousands of troops return home from the battlefields of Afghanistan, we must consider the toll that more than a decade of combat has taken on the minds and bodies of the soldiers serving the U.S.
A 2009 report by the military-funded RAND Corporation reveals that 14 percent—or 340,000—of post-9/11 combat veterans exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Moreover, 267,000 cases of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, have been diagnosed in young veterans since 2000, according to the Department of Defense, though the majority of these injuries occurred in non-deployment settings.
The news isn't all bad, however. In addition to new, cutting-edge treatments for depression and brain damage, emerging technologies are making it easier than ever to save the lives of wounded warriors.
Here are some of the ways the war in Iraq has impacted the youngest generation of veterans.
Younger Soldiers in Combat Are Seven Times More Likely to Develop PTSD
A study published last month in the journal Clinical Psychological Science reported that soldiers who enlist in the military before the age of 25 are seven times more likely to develop PTSD.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
Though the researchers found that 98 percent of soldiers with PTSD in their study population had been exposed to stressful combat situations, two specific risk factors made some troops more likely to develop PTSD than others: childhood trauma, such as a family history of violence or drug abuse, and participating in violence against civilians or prisoners of war.
In fact, soldiers who experienced childhood trauma before enlisting and who were prompted to harm civilians or prisoners had a staggering 97 percent chance of developing PTSD following deployment. The researchers stressed the importance of access to healthcare for returning vets as well as comprehensive pre-deployment mental health screenings.
Read the full story here.
Vision Problems Persist for Veterans Affected by Traumatic Brain Injury
Many veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries caused by bomb blasts, car crashes, and other battlefield exposure experience lasting vision problems once they return home.
Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Palo Alto, Calif., found that soldiers with TBI from blast injuries most commonly suffer from extreme light sensitivity, while those suffering from TBI from a non-blast injury tend to experience fast, shifting eye movements, called saccadic dysfunction.
How does depression affect service members and their families?
Read the full article here, and learn to recognize the symptoms of TBI and to protect yourself and your family from harm.
DARPA’s Wound Stasis Foam Stops Internal Bleeding and Saves Lives
In December, Healthline reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, has collaborated with Arsenal Medical, Inc. to develop a revolutionary foam agent that can halt bleeding from internal abdominal wounds for up to three hours, with a survival rate of 72 percent.
This type of internal bleeding is the leading cause of potentially survivable battlefield deaths, largely because medics can't apply pressure to these rapidly hemorrhaging wounds. DARPA's wound stasis foam can be easily injected by a medic in a crisis situation, fills the entire abdominal cavity and applies universal internal pressure, and can be easily removed by a surgeon once the soldier reaches a hospital.
More amazing, perhaps, is that a college junior from New York University has developed a similar substance for use on external wounds. Joe Landolina's Veti-Gel can instantly halt severe bleeding and jump-start the body's blood clotting and healing processes. It's superior to the current product, QuickClot—a piece of gauze soaked in the drying agent kaolin—the U.S. military now uses because Veti-Gel can be stored at room temperature and requires no pressure.
Read the full story about Landolina's Veti-Gel here.
If you or a loved one is returning from military duty and is in need of medical care for PTSD, TBI, or another condition, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America provide a list of resources for vets and their families, including the National Center for PTSD, Military OneSource, and Veteran Center readjustment counseling.