Veterans who have served in the armed forces endure the type of lifestyle that is not comparable to any other way of life. The physical and mental strength required by veterans is unique and impressive to us civilians. But despite their strength, veterans often suffer from health problems because of their time served for their country.
There is very little that a member of the armed forces doesn’t experience, from exposure to fatal chemicals, explosive blasts and unprecedented stress, it is no surprise that many conditions arise later in life. While as a society, we have the utmost respect for the brave men and women that serve our country and protect our way of life, there is often a lack of awareness surrounding the problems that veterans may face. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the different health problems that veterans may go through, and the different ways that they require our support, especially if you are a friend or family of a veteran.
Disorders of the immune system are very common amongst veterans, and they cause abnormally low activity of the immune system. If a person suffers from an autoimmune disorder, then essentially their body struggles to protect itself from illness and disease, which leaves them vulnerable to contracting infections. Autoimmune diseases are where the immune system attacks the healthy tissue in the body, and instead focuses on foreign and unknown microorganisms.
There are many different autoimmune disorders that exist, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and multiple sclerosis. Sufferers of multiple sclerosis suffer from pain, muscle spasms, and weakness as the immune system attacks the nerve cells in the body. Similarly, with IBD, the immune system targets and attacks the intestines’ lining which causes diarrhea, weight loss, and rectal bleeding.
Autoimmune disorders are common amongst veterans as they are exposed to a lot of stress during their military careers, which causes the body to remain constantly in a state of survival. Under this state, the body can suffer from inflammation, which can trigger autoimmune disorders.
Mental Health Issues
One of the most common health problems that veterans suffer from is mental health problems. This can vary from anxiety conditions to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) caused by the traumatic scenes they have witnessed serving their country. Research has found that around 20 percent of the veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from PTSD or major depression.
Service in the military is one of the most traumatic environments to be around, so it is hardly surprising that veterans come home with significant mental health problems. Being in the armed forces means being exposed to scenes of death and intense fear, yet servicemen are expected to act bravely regardless. Often, when the brave men and women who fight for our country come home, they realize the full extent of what they have witnessed and find the scenes difficult to come to terms with. They may also find it difficult to readjust to civilian life.
There are different ways that veterans with mental health problems can get support. You can make them aware of any support groups in the area, suggest counselling, and sometimes a doctor may prescribe medication. In recent years, there has been an increase in awareness of how common mental health issues are amongst veterans, and many charities have been set up to ensure that the brave men and women get the support they require. You can donate here to help eradicate statistics that show around 20 veterans take their own lives every single day.
The most common health problem that veterans face is hearing loss because of the high-risk occupation they have worked in. Being exposed to loud explosions and the piercing noises made by weaponry as they go off can have a significant but negative impact on their hearing. It is likely that someone who has served in the armed forces will not have hearing as good as their peers who haven’t.
However, hearing loss is not the only health problem that can be caused by being exposed to loud noises, as it is also common for veterans to suffer from ringing or buzzing in their ears which can cause migraines.
Being in a war zone can often mean being exposed to heavily polluted and toxic smoke in the air which can later develop into lung diseases. Often chemicals will be burnt, as well as metals, medical waste, and munitions, which are dangerous when inhaled on a regular basis. By inhaling these toxic chemicals, veterans can later develop lung, eye, skin and cardiovascular issues, which can be fatal.
Common symptoms of a lung condition include a persistent and long-term cough, chest pains, and difficulty breathing. If you are concerned that you or a veteran you know could be suffering from a lung condition, then you should seek medical advice straight away.
Being exposed to harmful and toxic chemicals is dangerous for those in military service. There are many different sources of chemical injuries in a war zone, such as jet aircraft fuel and hydraulic oil, as well as other chemical liquids that are used as agents of war. For example, veterans of the Gulf War were exposed to agent orange, which was a defoliation chemical used to clear large areas of jungle landscape at one time.
However, the veterans who were exposed to agent orange chemical suffered from heart issues later in life, years after their exposure, as nobody was aware of the fatal consequences of the chemical at the time. It has also been linked to gene damage which has resulted in deformities in the children of those exposed to the chemical.
It is essential that we are well educated about the common health problems that veterans face. As a society, we can then make the necessary steps to ensure they are correctly supported and cared for. If you notice any symptoms of the conditions described above, make sure your loved one gets the help they need.