HEALTH BEAT WITH DR. ALICIA ARNOLD -- Veteran Health

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- How have the numbers of wounded soldiers changed over the years?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “They have increased. Because of advancements in battlefield medicine and improved defense technology, we are able to treat wounded servicemen and women and bring them home. According to the Wounded Warrior Project, for every soldier killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, seven are wounded. For WWI and WWII the ratio was closer to 1 to 2. So we are thankfully better able to get our injured service members home to be with their families, but we do see more injuries than in previous generations.”

As a result of military service, sometimes a veteran may have experienced loss of a limb.

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Amputations and paralysis can understandably be very difficult for servicemen and women. Research has shown that the risk of depression can be more than 3 times higher after an amputation than for the general population. Those who have had amputations or been paralyzed have to relearn how to perform all the activities of daily life. Also adjusting to a new self-image can be quite difficult. Emotional challenges can be as difficult as the physical ones.”

There are injuries of wartime that we can see, but there are also ones that we can’t see. Let’s talk about traumatic brain injury.

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “This is a really important topic. Even if they don’t have obvious physical wounds, many vets have invisible wounds that can be debilitating and make the transition back to civilian life more difficult. Traumatic brain injury happens when an impact of some sort causes damage to the brain. Depending on severity, it can affect one’s energy, concentration, sleep, even movement and speech.”

And PTSD?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause a person who has undergone trauma to have persistent symptoms such as flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, distressing feelings, and trouble sleeping. People suffering from this condition may be hyper-vigilant, which means they are constantly checking to see if they are safe. This obviously can feel exhausting. Since these issues aren’t always obvious from the outside, awareness of them is important. They can be difficult for the vets and for their families.”

You mentioned families. Health problems in vets affect the whole family.

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Spouses or parents are often caregivers for veterans who have been injured. Also during deployment, spouses bear the majority of the work on the homefront, in addition to wondering about the safety of their loved one. Research has also shown that there can be an effect on children of military members during deployment. There may be increases in anxiety, behavioral problems, problems with sleep or school. I think we can all agree that whether injuries occur or not, veterans and their families make sacrifices for all of us and we say thank you to all of them.”



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