PTSD a medical warning sign for long-term health problems

Feb 13, 2008

Geisinger research finds that veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are as likely to have long-term health problems as people with chronic disease risk factors such as an elevated white blood cell counts and biological signs and symptoms. However, few healthcare providers screen for PTSD in the same way as they screen for other chronic disease risk factors.

“Exposure to trauma has not only psychological effects, but can take a serious toll on a person’s health status and biological functions as well,” Geisinger Senior Investigator Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH says. “PTSD is a risk factor for disease that doctors should put on their radar screens.”

For this study, Dr. Boscarino examined the health status of 4,462 male Vietnam-era veterans 30 years after their military service. Results are being published in the current edition of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

The study finds that having PTSD was just as good an indicator of a person’s long-term health status as having an elevated white blood cell count. An elevated white blood cell count can indicate a major infection or a serious blood disorder such as leukemia.

The study also found that veterans with high erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), which indicates inflammation, were also at risk. There was a similar finding for a possible indicator of serious neuroendocrine problems.

While these disease markers are measured with a blood test, PTSD is commonly measured with a psychological test or a mental health examination.

This research comes as Geisinger is organizing a national conference on May 13 to address PTSD in combat veterans from rural parts of the country.

Boscarino says that almost anyone who experiences a traumatic event can experience PTSD, meaning accident and disaster victims are also predisposed to the biological risk factors associated with PTSD.

Although therapy doesn't necessarily have to be extensive, Boscarino says it should occur shortly after a person has experienced a traumatic event. Early treatment may be critical to avoiding depression, PTSD and substance abuse-related problems following trauma.

“As the conflicts in the Middle East continue, we’re seeing a new wave of our service members who have posttraumatic stress,” says Boscarino, a Vietnam veteran. “If we don’t get these personnel help earlier, our research shows that they may experience more serious health problems down the road.”

Source: Geisinger Health System

Explore further: UN Ebola victim leaves France after recovery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Guns aren't the only things killing cops

Apr 11, 2014

The public does not realize—in fact, police themselves may not realize—that the dangers police officers are exposed to on a daily basis are far worse than anything on "Law and Order."

Questions loom over drug given to sleepless vets

Aug 30, 2010

(AP) -- Andrew White returned from a nine-month tour in Iraq beset with signs of post-traumatic stress disorder: insomnia, nightmares, constant restlessness. Doctors tried to ease his symptoms using three ...

Recommended for you

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

3 hours ago

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, U.S. public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

Can robots help stop the Ebola outbreak?

12 hours ago

The US military has enlisted a new germ-killing weapon in the fight against Ebola—a four-wheeled robot that can disinfect a room in minutes with pulses of ultraviolet light.

New bird flu case in Germany

12 hours ago

A worrying new strain of bird flu has been observed for the first time in a wild bird in northern Germany, the agriculture ministry said Saturday.

Mali announces new Ebola case

Nov 22, 2014

Mali announced Saturday a new case of Ebola in a man who is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit in the capital Bamako.

Plague outbreak kills 40 in Madagascar: WHO

Nov 22, 2014

An outbreak of plague has killed 40 people in Madagascar, the World Health Organization said, warning that the disease could spread rapidly in the country's densely populated capital Antananarivo.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.