Some of the most troubling and enduring wounds of war are those that have come to be known since Vietnam as Post Traumatic Shock Disorder, or PTSD. Those who have experienced the realities of combat are all potential sufferers of this very real and difficult to identify and to treat combat related wound. PTSD has been a cause of much suffering, many deaths and a good deal of controversy, but there may be some hope for better diagnosis and treatment in the near future.
According to the Military Times, the U.S. Army and outside biomedical groups are currently studying new blood tests that might be able to identify PTSD in combat veterans and make it possible to begin the necessary treatments to relieve the symptoms of this wound more quickly and effectively.
After six years of research, the Army’s Research Systems Biology and outside biometric studies have been able to identify a set of 27 blood markers that are related to the various symptoms of PTSD and they believe they may be able to develop simple blood tests that can help to identify specific treatments for patients who are currently exhibiting, or better diagnostic tools to identify those who might eventually exhibit the symptoms of PTSD. These findings support past hypotheses that PTSD, “not only affects the brain, but the entire body.”
If these potential blood tests come to fruition, it could really be a life-saving diagnostic tool for those combat veterans who might be potential or actual sufferers of the symptoms of PTSD in the future. It could potentially reduce the effects of PTSD on current and future war fighters. It could potentially reduce the numbers of suicides that are so prevalent in our combat veteran communities. This would also, of course, have a salutary effect on those who suffer, or who could potentially suffer PTSD symptoms from traumas in the civilian community.
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According to Dr. Charles Marmar, who is the Senior author of the study and who is the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, these blood tests “could indicate signs of PTSD that veterans are unaware of or are deliberately hiding out of fears surrounding stigma of the diagnosis. It could more quickly eliminate PTSD as a potential problem for patients with unclear medical issues.”
The article points out that this study has limits. For example, there were no women veterans or civilians included in the study. But after six years of research that tracked 165 combat veterans who had been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, half of whom already suffer from symptoms of PTSD, the blood tests showed a 77% accuracy rate for identifying PTSD. That is more than enough to continue the research. It may be years before a simple and inexpensive blood test is available for general use, but the hope is clearly there.
The Department of Defense estimates that as much as 25% of combat veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may suffer from the symptoms of PTSD including, uncontrolled anxiety, confusion or anger. And we are currently experiencing 17 deaths a day to suicide related to this wound of war that is called PTSD.
The Veterans Site hopes that research like this will eventually prove to be a positive development for our war fighting troops in the future. There is no doubt about the reality and the effects of PTSD in the war fighting community. Any help in diagnosing and treating these symptoms more effectively will reduce the suffering that is associated with this reality of war.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.