Undoubtedly, military life is quite rewarding. But it’s also challenging. Things you’ve experienced or seen during the war can affect your overall health, making it hard to transition to civilian life. Even if you have successfully adjusted, you might have developed prolonged mental health concerns.
While at war, you might be exposed to harmful chemicals, not to mention explosions and gunfire. After returning home, you might encounter health issues you never expected, like chronic pain or injuries. Not just that, you might find yourself coping with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. These issues might affect not only you but also your family, children, or friends.
Top 7 Common health problems veterans might face and how to overcome them
As a veteran, you must have been exposed to dangerous substances during the war. Besides hazardous substances, there might be air pollution from burn pits, the dust of battle, or smoke, raising the risk of developing health problems a while later. As a result, this makes it essential for you to get checked for these dangerous substances during routine checkups.
For instance, during the battle, you might be exposed to asbestos, causing you to develop several dangerous diseases like mesothelioma or lung cancer. Your medical care provider can help you identify such conditions early and outline the rates of survival for the disease you developed. Not just that, they can also refer you the specialists so you can get treated for it properly.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common amongst veterans. It occurs when an outside force hits the brain. These can be injuries from assault or shocks from explosions. In addition, TBI might cause brain function to be temporarily altered or impaired. Even though it’s a severe injury, it doesn’t have any visible physical signs, often referred to as an ‘invisible wound.’
A few cognitive symptoms of this health condition can consist of:
- Poor impulse control
- Trouble focusing
- Changes in memory
- Troubles with planning and judgment
While emotional indications might be:
- Irritability and anger
- Mental Health
Physical symptoms of TBI include:
- Weakness in the limbs
But how can you get better? As a veteran, consider getting counseling for emotional support. You might stress about recovering or find it challenging to go back to your work. As a result, counseling can help you support and make the healing journey more manageable. Besides that, ensure you eat a nutritious diet and stay hydrated. Remember to be patient because your healing will take time.
During war or in the field, you might be exposed to a wide range of infectious diseases, varying on where you were deployed. For instance, bacterial infections might include brucellosis, which might continue for years. Besides that, infections like campylobacter jejuni can cause fever, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. Some serious infectious diseases like Coxiella burnetii can also inflame the heart, compromising your overall health.
Another brutal condition you might experience is Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the sting of sand flies. This disease might cause you to suffer from headaches, weakness, fever, weight loss, and liver enlargement.
Even though you can’t prevent infectious diseases completely, take steps to prevent them from getting fatal. If you’ve gotten infected on the skin, try washing your hands with warm soap and water if you’ve touched the wounded area. Besides that, clean the area with soap and water to wipe off all bacteria and germs. In addition, ensure you’re vaccinated, so the infection doesn’t significantly impact your health.
Substance Use Disorders
Undoubtedly, serving in the military is stressful and participating in a war is even more difficult. As a result, this might increase your alcohol, drug, or cigarette usage. But you need to realize that substance use disorders (SUD) can lead to an increased risk of mental health conditions like depression or suicide.
Therefore, as a veteran, you must eliminate unhealthy habits like excessive drinking. But how can you do that? Consider seeking the help of professionals by engaging in behavioral counseling.
In addition, you can try detoxification which requires you to stop taking drugs to allow them to leave your body. However, medication can also suppress your withdrawal symptoms during detoxification, helping you lead a healthy lifestyle.
Musculoskeletal Injuries and Pain
As a veteran, you might experience various musculoskeletal injuries (MSK) caused by overuse, accident, strenuous physical training, repetitive motions, or carrying heavy gear. This usually causes hip, knee, and ankle overuse injuries. Hence, don’t hesitate to talk to your primary care provider if you face any MSK condition. They can help you assess your injury’s minor or significant and refer you to specialized services as required.
Besides that, you can consider getting physical therapy to help you with the movement and function of your body parts. Perhaps you can try heat treatments like hot water baths and heating pads to ease any muscular pain. Moreover, you can also try muscle strengthening exercises or gentle stretching. However, ensure whatever physical activity you’re doing is approved by your doctor or under supervision.
Exposure to Noise and Vibration
The harmful effects of noise from heavy weapons, gunfire, noisy aircraft, and engine room can cause hearing loss and impairment. Not just that, as a veteran, you might experience persistent buzzing and ringing in the ears. Moreover, as a veteran who worked daily with machinery, you might suffer vibration exposure, prompting irreversible lower back pain. It might also cause your hands and finger to experience severe numbness.
Sadly, unlike civilians, you might not have any option but to remain in noisy environments to finish specific tasks and missions, unable to prevent its side effects. But you can use hearing protection devices or earplugs to avoid the noise affecting your ears too much. In addition, you can also consider taking follow-up audiological tests to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Are you having a tough time readjusting to life outside the military, or do you feel emotionally disconnected from your loved ones? If yes, you might have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even though you can develop indicators of PTSD in days following a traumatic event, sometimes signs don’t show up for months or years.
While this health condition develops differently in every veteran, you might face intrusive reminders of the traumatic event. Besides that, you might find yourself avoiding things that remind you of the disturbing event. You can’t heal from this health condition instantly, but you can take steps for it to get better. Try exercising regularly or look for someone who can listen and emotionally support you.
As a veteran, you might suffer from many mental and physical health conditions during the battle. With the common health problems and solutions mentioned above, you can stay ahead and get better sooner.