Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter A that are related to military service history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about asbestos, Agent Orange, and other medical issues that begin with “A”.
This is an ongoing series and more veterans health topics and letters are coming soon.
Note: What follows should not be taken as medical advice and is not intended as a diagnosis. This page is general information related to common veterans conditions and should not replace advice from your health care provider.
This substance is described by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a “tactical herbicide.” It was used in warfare by the United States military from 1962 to 1975 according to the VA official site.
Use of Agent Orange was particularly widespread during the Vietnam conflict. Millions of gallons were used or handled in places including the demilitarized zone in Korea and Thailand. There was a particular risk of exposure on certain airframes used to disperse or transport Agent Orange.
According to the VA official site, “several decades later, concerns about the health effects from these chemicals, including dioxin, a byproduct of Agent Orange production, continue.”
Those who were exposed or suspect they have been exposed to Agent Orange should complete the free VA Agent Orange Registry health exam to screen for long-term effects of the exposure. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers Agent Orange specific health care, disability compensation, and other benefits to eligible Veterans. This care is not just for the basic exposure, but also for treatment of “certain disease conditions” that are presumed to have been caused by Agent Orange. Dependents and survivors of veterans who have died may also be eligible for VA benefits related to Agent Orange. Those conditions may include, but are not limited to the following:
- AL Amyloidosis
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
- Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Respiratory Cancers
- Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and may be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing infected needles, or using unsterilized (or improperly sterilized) medical equipment, etc. Those examples are not the only means of exposure to the AIDS virus, but are among the most common.
Military members and their families are at risk for AIDS exposure under specific circumstances, which may include one or more of the following risk factors as listed on the VA official site:
- Sexual contact (including oral, vaginal, or anal sex) without a condom or other latex barrier
- Sex with someone who was HIV positive
- Sex with someone who used injection drugs
- Experiencing a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or hepatitis
- Experienced a sexual assault
- Situations that involve passing out, losing consciousness, or forgetting what happened after an event or gathering (especially where alcohol or other substances are involved)
- Sharing needles or other equipment to inject or pierce the skin (including tattoo needles)
- Methamphetamines use
- Those who have received a blood transfusion
- Having a parent with HIV or who has died of AIDS.
The Department of Veterans Affairs strongly recommends AIDS testing for all patients getting medical care even if the patient does not believe there were applicable risk factors or exposure. The VA official site describes HIV testing as a routine procedure, “so that persons who are infected can be diagnosed early on and receive life-saving care for themselves, and so they can avoid passing the infection to others.”
Those eligible to use VA medical facilities can book an HIV test at their nearest clinic. The VA official site reminds veterans and their caregivers that an HIV diagnosis, regardless of circumstance, is not a threat to veteran military benefits. Patients have the right to request or refuse an HIV screening at VA facilities.
For many veterans, alcohol use is not a problem. But for some it may become an issue due to a variety of factors which may or may not be present for an individual military member, spouse, or dependent. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site has the following guidelines about using alcohol in moderation:
“If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation (women no more than 1 drink a day; men no more than 2 drinks a day). Avoid “binge drinking.” If you are concerned about your drinking, talk to your VA health care team about getting help.”
You can schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, VA clinic, or a counselor who can help. The VA may refer a patient to an approved private provider in some cases, but depending on the region and the nature of the VA facility. Patients getting treatment for alcoholism or related symptoms can expect the following types of care from the VA according to the VA official site:
- First-time screening for alcohol or tobacco use in all care locations
- Short outpatient counseling including focus on motivation
- Intensive outpatient treatment
- Residential (live-in) care
- Medically managed detoxification (stopping substance use safely)
- Continuing care and relapse prevention
- Marriage and family counseling
- Self-help groups
- Drug substitution therapies and newer medicines to reduce craving
Contact your nearest VA clinic or treatment facility to learn what options may be available near you and what options are open for residential treatment when a VA care center is far away.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain condition which ultimately results in dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia which can take on several manifestations including Lewy Body Dementia and similar problems.
This condition makes it more difficult over time for the patient to communicate and remember, and dementia symptoms including Alzheimer’s result as the medical condition affects crucial centers of the human brain.
Veterans who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should know that VA care is available for this condition featuring a “full range of service” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These services may include home-based primary care, VA Homemaker and Home Health Aide services, respite care to relieve regular caregivers, adult day health care, and much more.
The most important thing in the earliest stages of this medical condition is to get proper diagnosis and treatment; those who suspect they may be suffering from conditions related to Alzheimer’s or dementia in general should make an appointment with a VA clinic, private caregiver, etc. and determine the specific nature of the condition.
Once a diagnosis is known, you can apply for the appropriate VA benefits where applicable. VA supported nursing home care, palliative care, and hospice care.
Asbestos is a heat-resistant material that was used in a variety of applications. This included siding, insulation, brakes, and other items before it became regulated by the federal government in the 1970s. Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals rather than a single material.It is highly toxic and exposure can result in a variety of medical problems over time including mesothelioma, scarring of the lungs, and lung cancer.
The United States is said to be one of the only developed nations that has not fully banned asbestos. Other countries including China still use it and in the United States it is permitted if the product contains no more than one percent of the material.
Military members may be exposed to asbestos in a variety of ways including shipbuilding and shipyard work, demolition, installation of insulation, carpentry, automobile repair, and other means. Those who have served in war zones may be exposed to asbestos when older buildings are bombed or otherwise destroyed.
Asbestos exposure may not result in problems initially; many of the harmful effects manifest themselves over time. The Department of Veterans Affairs urges anyone concerned about their exposure to asbestos to make an appointment with a VA Environmental Health Coordinator to discuss the exposure and possible side effects.
You can find the closest Department of Veterans Affairs Environmental Health Coordinator near you to call or make an appointment.
Asthma is described by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs by inflaming and narrowing air passages. Asthma can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest. Approximately 25 million Americans have asthma. There are a variety of causes and treatments.
At one time, asthma was a specific barrier to military service depending on circumstances. But as more is learned about the condition and mission requirements have changed, the military’s stance of asthma has changed, too. Some old recruitment guidelines have been changed to allow those who have had no symptoms since childhood to get a better chance of being approved to serve.
According to some statistics as late as 2011, asthma was a major cause for certain kinds of military medical discharges.
But asthma is not an automatic deal breaker for military service. Some applicants may not know they have asthma until later in life, and some applicants may refuse to disclose prior asthma issues. Once the condition is detected, the nature and severity of it may help determine whether a medical discharge is required,
Veterans who have this condition may or may not have been medically out-processed due to the condition. The Department of Veterans Affairs has certain diagnostic guidelines that include observing six weeks or more of coughing, shortness of breath, or other asthma-related symptoms in adults. In children, two weeks may be sufficient to explore a diagnosis further.
There is a process of weeding out related to the doctor’s asthma diagnosis. It will be necessary to evaluate environmental factors. Any comorbid symptoms that may be the result of another medical condition, diet, exercise, smoking habits, alcohol intake, and much more.
Asthma symptoms alone cannot be cause for making the diagnosis as the physician has to insure those symptoms are not caused by another condition.
The treatment of asthma is very case-specific. Patients may be given prescription medications, inhalers, adjusted diet and lifestyle routines, and other treatment depending on the nature and severity of the condition.
Veterans who are suffering from asthma symptoms should make an appointment with their care provider or a VA medical clinic to be evaluated.
This process may take longer than some evaluations since it is necessary to determine whether the cause of certain symptoms is indeed asthma or another medical condition with similar physical symptoms. Contact your primary care provider or the nearest VA clinic to be screened.
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