Veterans have fought to protect our country, so we owe it to them to fight to protect their minds. According to new research, it may be necessary to more aggressively screen elderly male veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for signs of dementia. The study revealed that veterans with PTSD were essentially two times more likely to develop dementia than those without the disorder.
PTSD is a psychological condition caused by exposure to sudden life-threatening events. The nature of their profession leaves soldiers particularly susceptible to the condition. Approximately 22% of Iraq War veterans who have been treated at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals have been diagnosed with PTSD. The condition can become chronic and continue to affect veterans late into their lives.
The authors of the paper could only speculate as to why dementia occurred in a greater number of PTSD patients. They cited the fact that the two conditions share some of the same risk factors, including limited education, low intelligence, and traumatic brain injuries. The conditions also affect some of the same cognitive functions, such as attention, memory, the ability to learn, and executive functioning–a cognitive system that manages other aspects of the mind. Furthermore, some of the anatomical changes that occur in the brains of PTSD patients are similar to those that occur in the brains of dementia patients.
PTSD can be an extremely debilitating condition. People who have it tend to relive torturous memories, exhibit avoidance behaviors, and live in constant state of stress. Even though this research had a few weaknesses such as missing data on race and the details of certain medical conditions, it could mean that PTSD patients should be aggressively screened for dementia as they age to help achieve the best possible prognosis. It also suggests that veterans who receive aggressive treatment for PTSD while young may reduce their risk of developing dementia in later years.