Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter D that are related to military service history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about depression, deafness and hearing damage, effects from exposure to depleted uranium, and other medical issues that begin with “D”.
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.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that some describe as simply “blood clots” but there is far more to DVT than that. The condition can lead to certain medical complications that can be life-threatening. The formation of blood clots themselves doesn’t have the serious consequences that may happen when those clots travel within the body.
One such consequence is known as a Pulmonary Embolism, which occurs when a blood clot breaks free and travels to the lungs, where blockages may form. Those blockages, known to doctors as embolisms, can damage the lungs and prevent the normal flow of blood through the human body. This can be potentially fatal.
The clots themselves may have a variety of causes including injury, surgery, inactivity, or an increase in estrogen from medication, pregnancy, or hormone replacement therapy. The existence or appearance of blood clots is not technically DVT; the condition happens when the clots form in a deep vein (hence the name).
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. These clots usually develop in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also occur in the arm.
Military members and their families can be susceptible to Deep Vein Thrombosis due to prolonged air travel, after surgery, and after non-surgical events that require a catheter. The air travel issue is particularly important to be aware of; any American military member assigned to duty in Japan or Korea knows how long a travel day from the West Coast to the Pacific can be.
Those who have had surgeries and must experience prolonged travel should consider preventive measures to avoid complications with DVT including diet and exercise, the use of medical compression stockings or other accessories during prolonged travel or long periods of immobility, and using special exercises while immobile to help prevent some of the conditions that make DVT possible.
Deafness and Hearing Damage
There are many potential sources of hearing damage in everyday life, but military members are commonly exposed to many of them as a job requirement. Aircraft engine noise, explosions, gunfire, prolonged exposure to noise from power tools and lawn equipment are all potential hazards that can affect hearing.
Noise-induced hearing loss can lead to partial or total deafness depending on the severity of the injury or the exposure to noise. No two cases are exactly alike and when it comes to gradual hearing damage because of prolonged exposure to engine noise or equipment you may not even realize your hearing is affected…at first.
Hearing damage isn’t the same as hearing loss…but one condition can lead to another. The National Institutes of Health official site states that noise-induced hearing loss “is a major preventable disease” which may be caused by an “acute exposure to an intense impulse of sound or by a continuous steady-state long-term exposure with sound pressure levels higher than 75–85 dB.”
Sound pressure levels affect the physical process of hearing – when exposure is sufficient over time the mechanics of hearing are adversely affected in ways that are generally not reversible. Before actual hearing loss occurs, those suffering from prolonged noise exposure may develop tinnitus, which is a prolonged ringing in the ears. Unfortunately, many experts believe that when you hear the ringing in your ears, it indicates a certain degree of actual hearing damage that is not reversible. This is common after loud concerts, sports events, car accidents, and other circumstances.
There are other causes of hearing damage, and total or partial deafness including physical damage to the ear such as a perforated eardrum, loss of one or both ears, etc.
The VA offers compensation for hearing loss and tinnitus, perforated eardrum, loss of the ears, and related conditions. Patients may be given separate VA disability ratings for tinnitus, hearing loss, and other ear-related problems.
Also known as “the DTs”, this condition is a side effect of alcohol withdrawal with symptoms that include mental confusion, nightmares, hallucinations, sweating, shivering, high body temperatures, etc.
The DTs often occur when there has been a period of prolonged alcohol abuse. Some sources say that while approximately half of all those suffering from alcoholism will suffer some form of withdrawal once they have quit drinking; only a percentage of these people experience Delirium Tremens. But for those who do, the symptoms are treatable until the withdrawal period passes.
DTs may also be caused by withdrawal from certain tranquilizers; it is not a condition limited to alcohol use. It is usually associated with the withdrawal period and symptoms associated with the cessation of drug or alcohol use.
The symptoms of Delirium Tremens are similar to other issues, such as alcoholic hepatitis and inflammation of the pancreas. It will be important for a doctor to rule out these conditions or treat them if the symptoms turn out to be caused by something other than alcohol withdrawal.
Those who have had alcohol abuse issues for a prolonged period of time, or those who drink the equivalent of a pint of spirits or eight pints of beer a day.
Dementia is a catch-all term that describes conditions that make it harder to remember, communicate, and think clearly. Alzheimer’s disease is one of these conditions, but other forms of dementia include vascular, frontotemporal, and Lewy body dementia.
Symptoms vary depending on the condition, which parts of the brain are affected, and how severe the condition is. Common symptoms include memory loss, problems following or understanding directions, difficulty getting organized, an inability to recognize the symptoms of dementia or not recognizing them for what they actually are, etc.
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site reminds us that at the time of this writing there is no cure for these diseases, but they are treatable depending on the severity and duration of the condition. Medication, exercise, and frequent medical care may be required to combat the progression of dementia in its various forms.
There are medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms of dementia but are actually something quite different. Depending on age and other factors, heart and lung disease can cause certain dementia-like symptoms, depression and certain medications can also interfere with memory, organizational skills, ability to understand directions, etc. Certain thyroid diseases may also affect how some patients think or feel.
Dental Issues For Veterans Of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom
The VA official site reminds those about to retire or separate from active duty who have served 90 days or more may be eligible for free VA dental care if the DD Form 214 shows that the service member did not get all needed dental service at least 90 days prior to separation. To be approved for this benefit, qualified veterans must apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs for this dental care benefit within 180 days of separation.
Those who have received injuries that include dental trauma while on active duty may be eligible “for lifelong dental care associated with this trauma and receive a service connected disability” according to the VA.
Some military armor and weaponry contains depleted uranium, which was used in conflicts including the Gulf War. Depleted uranium has less radioactivity than its undepleted uranium counterpart, but it has the same level of chemical toxicity to humans. People can be exposed to depleted uranium in a variety of ways, but the Department of Veterans Affairs identifies the following campaigns as being an elevated risk for exposure:
- Gulf War
- Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
- Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
- Operation New Dawn (OND)
Common exposure scenarios in these campaigns include but are not limited to the following:
- Anyone on, in, or near a military vehicle hit with friendly fire
- Anyone on, in, or near military vehicles on fire or near burning vehicles
- Anyone near a fire involving depleted uranium munitions
- Those tasked with salvaging damaged military vehicles
If you suspect you have been exposed to depleted uranium in any capacity, it’s important to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs immediately. You can contact a local VA Environmental Health Coordinator near you to discuss your concerns.
Depression is the name of a condition that can includes symptoms such as feelings of sadness, isolation, alienation, fatigue, and feeling “off”; while it is true that everyone feels these things from time to time, depression is often to blame when these feelings don’t go away in time the way they do when experienced “situationally.”
The National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) official site points out that there are different kinds of depression-there is no one single type. According to NAMI, depressive disorders can include (but may not be limited to) the following:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia)—a low-grade depression lasting two or more years
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)— depression onset in the winter when sunlight is reduced
- Postpartum depression, which affects some women upon giving birth
- Bipolar disorder, with the current mood depressed (as opposed to manic or hypomanic)
Depression is a condition that affects people no matter how “strong” or “capable” they may otherwise be. It is not something one can prevent by smiling more, trying to be more positive, or looking on the bright side.
Clinical depression has causes and treatments. What is not so well understood by people who are not trained is that the causes of depression may not be as easily identified at first depending on whether the condition is related to body chemistry issues or if an experience or group of experiences may be part of the issue.
The human body produces insulin, which helps the body manage blood sugar levels. When the body cannot produce or use insulin as it should, the sugar is not absorbed by the body, it remains in the bloodstream, and the resulting elevated sugar levels can damage internal organs. Diabetes affects approximately 30 million Americans, and more than 85 million are at risk of developing the condition for a variety of reasons.
There are three kinds of diabetes, Type One, Type Two, and gestational diabetes. Type One is often detected during childhood and requires regular insulin treatment. Type Two diabetes is usually detected in adulthood and approximately 90% of all adults diagnosed with the condition are Type Two diabetics. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, when some non-diabetic patients develop high blood sugar levels.
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site reminds that in addition to “typical” causes of this condition, some veterans who have served in military conflicts are at elevated risk of diabetes due to exposure to certain pesticides or other hazards. The VA reports that diabetes affects about 25% of the VA patient population.
Symptoms include blurry vision, excessive thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, hunger, and weight loss. Any veteran or family member experiencing these problems should be evaluated by a medical professional; the condition is treatable with medication, lifestyle changes, exercise and frequent blood sugar monitoring.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has conducted research into this condition, with a seven and a half year study involving around 1,800 patients with diabetes. The research included an investigation into whether “intensive glucose control” could help reduce heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients.
The results of that study imply that aggressive blood sugar control had potential to lower “incidence of cardiovascular events” but did not indicate different mortality rates for the control group versus the test group.
|VA Benefits Guide||State Veteran’s Benefits|
|VA Claim Exam||Best States with Veteran Benefits|
|How to Apply for Disability Pay||VA Priority Groups|