Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter B that are related to military service history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about back pain, blindness, and other medical issues that begin with “B”.
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.
According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work and for scheduling doctor’s visits. There are many causes for back pain including pinched nerves, herniated discs, pulled muscles, and a host of other causes.
Not all back pain is service-connected, nor is all back pain justification for VA compensation. But this medical issue can be non-specific enough to warrant close attention when processing VA claims.
Some conditions are not necessarily the result of injury or disease. A “narrowing of the spine” for example, may be compensable if it is determined that the condition was the result of military service. Whether or not the condition existed in any form prior to military service is an important factor.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has specific guidelines in the “critical decision points in the diagnosis and Management of Low Back Pain” developed with the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society.
“Low back pain” is definitely more specific in diagnosis and treatment, but it is definitely not the only back condition that qualifies for treatment of compensation. Some back pain may be symptomatic of another condition, such as arthritis. This is a possibility that should not be ignored when taking inventory of your symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue once known as “manic depressive disorder.” It is a chronic condition that may require medication to manage. Symptoms include “highs” or “up periods” that may resemble agitation or restlessness in milder cases. The symptoms may resemble more extreme manifestations.
The mania or manic phase of this condition may result in loss of sleep, erratic behavior patterns, and larges bursts of activity that are otherwise unusual for the patient.
The “high” phase is only part of the condition. The depressive phase of bipolar disorder can manifest itself in minor depression or much more severe forms including suicidal thoughts, neglect of self-care, difficulty maintaining jobs or relationships, etc.
Treatment of bipolar disorder is challenging. Some doctors say there are very specific ways to treat the manic phase or “high” of bipolar-often involving a prescription for Lithium. But the depressive phase of bipolar disorder is much harder to treat. Patients may require testing a variety of medications to find the anti-depressant or other medicine that is appropriate for them.
There is no “magic bullet” cure for the depressive phase of the condition. Patients may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants, or combinations of medications designed to correct body chemistry issues that contribute to the depression. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle are all important in the treatment of this condition.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly one in every hundred people may suffer from bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is not a condition that can be directly attributed to military service in terms of cause, but it is entirely possible that the condition may be aggravated or complicated by military service.
Those who suffer from bipolar disorder should consider this carefully and be persistent in their efforts to have the condition evaluated and treated.
Birth Defects in The Children of Vietnam Veterans
Veterans who served in the Vietnam War came home with some unique medical issues. Some of those may take years to develop. This is true in cases of birth defects associated with exposure to Agent Orange, which was used frequently in Vietnam.
According to the VA official site, the Department of Veterans Affairs “presumes that certain birth defects in biological children of women Vietnam Veterans were caused by military service when the birth mother served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.”
This means that children who qualify based on the criteria above may receive compensation for the service-connected birth defects from which they suffer. The VA defines “birth defects” in general as “abnormalities present at birth that result in mental or physical disabilities.” The list of conditions in this area that are eligible for VA compensation include, but are not limited to the following:
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Congenital heart disease
- Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
- Esophageal and intestinal atresia
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
- Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
- Imperforate anus
- Neural tube defects
- Poland syndrome
- Pyloric stenosis
- Syndactyly (fused digits)
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
- Undescended testicle
- Williams syndrome
The VA official site adds that certain conditions are not covered. That includes medical conditions that are caused by “family disorders,” injuries sustained at birth (“birth-related” injuries), and neonatal conditions with “well-established causes.” These restrictions also apply to any of the conditions listed above that are shown to be genetic or otherwise caused by an issue other than Agent Orange exposure.
There are many causes of blindness. Illness, injury, nerve damage, retinal detachment, and others contributors. Some issues are genetic, some are situational. Whatever the cause, the loss or loss of use of the eyes is a serious issue. It may require extensive testing to determine whether the condition is permanent, operable, etc. Some forms of blindness may be correctable. Cataracts and detached retinas may be operable depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Other types of blindness resulting from injury, disease, or age may be permanent.
Being treated for blindness means having the cause of the condition properly diagnosed. The blindness that results from untreated diabetes, for example, may require a different approach than that for cataracts, damaged retinas, etc.
Because there is a spectrum of visual impairment, it will be necessary to determine the extent of the condition in order to be treated and receive VA compensation for service-connected blindness.
The condition known as “legally blind” for example, may not be 100% total lack of vision from a technical standpoint. But the impairment experienced may have similar or identical effects on the patient as total blindness would.
It is important to remember that the criteria for a medical condition to be considered for VA compensation is not limited to things that were directly caused by military service. A condition that is complicated or aggravated by military service may also be considered.
Don’t assume your condition is not covered just because there is not a direct or obvious cause-and-effect relationship between the condition and military life.
There are two blood-pressure related issues. One is the very-well-known hypertension or high blood pressure. This condition is described as “a condition in which the force of blood against artery walls is too strong” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site.
Untreated, high blood pressure damages the arteries, heart, and kidneys and can lead to heart disease and stroke over time. The specific hypertension criteria listed on the VA official site includes the following:
- The top number (systolic) is 140 mm Hg or higher.
- The bottom number (diastolic) is 90 mm Hg or higher.
Blood pressure issues can be caused by a large number of things including other medical issues, diet, lack of exercise, stress, and alcohol consumption. Blood pressure as an issue for military members seeking VA compensation may require the establishment of the condition as a pre-or-post military service medical issue.
In cases where high blood pressure is caused by another medical issue, VA guidelines will determine if and how compensation should be calculated.
Another blood pressure issue is the exact opposite of high blood pressure. Hypotension is described as “low blood pressure” and may be life threatening in certain cases. Hypotension is described by the VA as, “A blood pressure reading lower than 90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for the top number (systolic) or 60 mm Hg for the bottom number (diastolic) is generally considered low blood pressure.” Low blood pressure can result from a simple case of dehydration, but can also happen after surgery or in connection with certain medical conditions.
The causes of low blood pressure can range from dehydration to serious medical or surgical disorders. It’s important to find out what’s causing your low blood pressure so that it can be treated.
Burn Pit Related Medical Issues
Military members, civilian contractors, and others who served in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been exposed to “burn pit” operations. The VA official site describes these operations as the following:
“Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The VA official site also claims, “At this time, research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits,” but adds that the agency continues to study the issue.
Those exposed to burn pit smoke may experience irritation of the lungs, eyes, digestive system, or other issues. Duration, intensity, and frequency of exposure will be important factors in making a diagnosis in this area.
While the VA official site claims that much of this irritation is temporary, it is still important to identify exposure. It is critical to monitor symptoms that may develop as a result and the severity of those symptoms. Anyone exposed to burn pit operations as part of military service should report this exposure. Make sure it is noted in medical records before leaving the service, if possible.
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