PTSD and Medical Symptoms

PTSD medical symptoms, medical issues with PTSD

credit: Sermo

PTSD.  It’s something our veterans face after the atrocities of war, but many civilians also experience it through traumatic events, childhood abuse or as victims of crime.

How common is PTSD? 

It’s estimated that 7.8% of the general population of the U.S. has PTSD, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed (10.4% for women vs. 5% for men). For military personnel who served in Iraq the estimate is 12% to 20%.  For anyone who has spent time in a war zone the number skyrockets to 30%.   Sobering numbers that physicians should be aware of.

PTSD and medical issues

Self-reported surveys have shown a strong correlation between PTSD and medical issues.  Physician surveys have also found a strong connection in veteran populations.  There can be complications beyond what a physician might expect.

  • Behavioral Risk Factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, poor diet, and exercise can lead to a host of medical problems.
  • Depression and/or anxiety issues can exacerbate a patients’ symptoms and make access to care more difficult.
  • Less obvious are things like musculoskeletal issues, an increase in cardiovascular disease, cancer, thyroid abnormalities, gastrointestinal, and immune disorders.

We polled our physicians to see what symptoms they looked for when they were treating patients with PTSD.  Their answers are in the poll above.

Educating Medical Staff

The Veteran’s Administration recommends training medical staff to look for the signs of PTSD and to take them into consideration when treating patients.   Here are some symptoms to look for …

  • Re-experiencing symptoms such as flashbacks (reliving the trauma), or physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweaty palms.
  • Avoidance symptoms such as staying away from places where trauma occurred or feeling emotionally numb, depressed or guilty.  Losing interest in the usual activities.  Yes, these are also signs of depression.
  • Hyper arousal symptoms such as being easily startled, feeling tense of “on edge” and having difficulty sleeping or angry outbursts.

Today is Veteran’s Day and it’s a good moment to remember a little compassion when dealing with patients who are struggling, perhaps a little more than their symptoms would indicate – Veteran or not.  If you’re an M.D. or a D.O. we’ll be discussing this further inside Sermo.  Join us.

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