It is now apparent that veterans coming home from Afghanistan or Iraq and already suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with now be at higher risk for facing more challenges in their future such as dementia. This correlation between veterans suffering from PTSD and dementia has also been previously seen in veterans from past wars as well. Researchers however feel that there are likely to be severe implications for fighting the present day wars.
In a recent study conducted by the Rand Corporation, about 300,000 service personnel serving throughout Afghanistan or Iraq had some symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms that were common included things such as the avoidance of people or things, avoiding any event that serves as a reminder of the trauma the person had experienced, difficulties sleeping such as nightmares, mood disorders, trouble maintaining personal relationships, flashbacks, and difficulty concentrating among other symptoms. These symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can reach such severe levels of suffering that they can actually lead to committing suicide.
In association with the united States Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder notes that PTSD is thought to develop in approximately 30% of veterans from Vietnam, nearly 10% of veterans from the Gulf War, up to 11% of veterans from the Afghanistan War Enduring Freedom, and up to 200% of veterans from the Iraq War for Iraqi Freedom.
This study included exactly 10,481 veterans who were of the age of 65 at least who had gone to the Medical Center for Veterans at least two times between the years of 1997 and 1999. Information was collected from outpatient files until the year 2008. Participants were categorized based upon whether they suffered injuries during combat, with or without a diagnosis of PTSD. Another group was then put together to serve as a comparison group which consisted of veterans that had been at the Medical Center for Veterans but did not have any combat injuries or PTSD symptoms.
Psychiatrist Mark Kunik from the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Texas explains that veterans with a diagnosis of PTSD were twice as likely to develop dementia later in life when compared to veterans without PTSD. Researchers are still trying to discover the cause for such an increased risk. Kunik believes however that it is essential that more research is done in order to determine whether or not being able to more effectively treat PTSD could reduce this risk of dementia.
At closer examination, researchers discovered that about 36.4% of the participants in the study had a diagnosis of PTSD. Within this group, 11.1% which had PTSD did not have any combat related injuries, while 7.2% had PTSD and combat injuries as well as dementia. Participant groups without PTSD showed figures of 4.5percent and 5.9%.
By furthering research and trying to get a better understanding of the correlation between both PTSD and dementia, veterans currently returning from war could have a much better chance of living lives without dementia. It will have to be more closely examined in terms of which veterans with PTSD are actually at a higher risk and to determine whether or not the PTSD that some veterans have is due to other events besides combat injuries.
In conclusion, this study opened the door to a correlation between PTSD in general and dementia. Therefore, the relationship needs to be better clarified for all affected populations, not just veterans.
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Qureshi SU et al. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2010 Sept: 58(9): 1627-33.
Mitchell, D. 2010. Dementia Risk Higher in Veterans with PTSD.