Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter I that are related to military service history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about immunization, insomnia, ionizing radiation and other medical issues that begin with “I”.
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.
Immunizations are an important part of overall health and a major component of preventive medicine. When deciding when and what to get immunizations for, it is very important to research legitimate, peer-reviewed medical sources rather than relying on information from people who are not trained doctors, nurses, and researchers.
Do not take your medical advice from celebrities without any medical training or related professional credentials. They are not capable of giving informed medical advice without the rigors of medical education and professional training.
You can protect yourself and others against seasonal illness and preventable diseases with vaccines, but be informed of the risks as a small percentage of the population may experience adverse effects from any medical treatment including immunizations.
The Department Of Veterans Affairs recommends the following immunizations:
Influenza / Flu shots: Flu vaccines are appropriate for those six months and older. The influenza virus changes from year to year, so immunizations should also be administered on a yearly basis.
Pneumococcal: According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “Older people and those with certain medical conditions are most susceptible to pneumonia.” Those who receive this immunization before the age of 65 will require booster shots when they reach that age or if five years or more have passed since the original vaccine.
Hepatitis A: If you are a world traveler or frequently travel to areas with high rates of Hepatitis A, you should definitely get this vaccine. This disease is a higher risk in those who have chronic liver disease or who are intravenous drug users, but that is not a complete list of those in the at-risk category. It’s best to get immunized as a preventive measure.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is spread through sexual contact, and can be passed from an infected mother to a newborn child. This disease can be spread through shared needles, body fluids, and is said to be more contagious than HIV.
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): It is strongly recommended that anyone born after 1956 and “all women of childbearing age who have not had these diseases or been vaccinated against them” get the MMR vaccine.
Chickenpox (varicella): If you were born in the United States after 1966, have not had Chickenpox already and have not been vaccinated, this vaccine is strongly encouraged as adults can develop complications from adult-onset chickenpox.
Shingles (herpes zoster): Shingles is described as a rash-like illness and for those 50 or older, the Shingrix vaccine “provides strong protection from shingles and long-term nerve pain.” Shingles is not like Chickenpox in that you can get Shingles again even if you have had it before. The VA official site includes an important warning to those who have received a different Shingles vaccine known as Zostavax. According to the VA, if you got Zostavax, “you still need 2 doses of Shingrix…Get the second dose 2 to 6 months after you get the first dose.”
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis: The VA recommends boosters of tetanus-diptheria every 10 years. Additionally, “In place of the Td booster, people age 19-64 and those 65 and older who are in contact with infants should get a one-time dose of tetanus-diptheria-pertussis (Tdap) to also protect against whooping cough.”
Incarcerated Vets Re-Entry Services and Resources
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides resources for homeless and formerly incarcerated veterans. The VA wants to help these veterans in a variety ways including:
- Outreach for formerly incarcerated veterans and homeless vets in need of assistance.
- Helping homeless and at-risk veterans with housing solutions such as HUD-VASH, health care, and community employment services.
- Working with federal, state and local agencies; employers; housing providers, faith-based and community nonprofits to offer employment and affordable housing options for veterans who need help transitioning from being homeless.
You can contact the VA directly to get information on participating in these programs at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
There are a wide variety of military jobs that expose servicemembers to industrial solvents like degreasers, paint thinners, harsh cleaning agents, etc. Prolonged exposure can lead to health problems depending on the nature and duration of the exposure:
- Vapors/gases can cause irritation of the eyes, difficulty breathing, even neurological damage
- Direct eye contact may result in burning and may lead to problems with vision
- Skin contact may result in irritation, rash, chemical burns, etc
- Ingested solvents can lead to serious health complications
What kinds of solvents can military members potentially be exposed to? According to the VA there are a variety of concerns including:
- Perfluorooctane sulfonate
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE or PERC)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Vinyl chloride
Are you worried about exposure to industrial solvents during military service? Speak to your primary care provider or call the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss your concerns. You may be eligible for VA treatment and/or compensation depending on the nature, documentation, and effects of such exposure.
“Infection: Don’t Pass It On”
The “Infection: Don’t Pass It On” campaign is described on the VA official site as an ongoing awareness effort to reach veterans, medical professionals, family members, and VA staff members about their roles in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and conditions. This campaign includes public service announcements and other media about the following subject matter areas:
- Hand washing and general hygiene
- “Respiratory etiquette”
- Annual flu shots
- How and when to use “personal protective equipment”
- Pandemic flu preparations
- Preventive medicine
The Department of Veterans Affairs advises the following measures as part of its awareness campaign for better health and preventive medicine:
- Avoid contact with sick people
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid touching your own eyes, nose or mouth, especially after using railings, door knobs, or other common-area-type exposure
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing / sneezing
- Get annual flu shots
Insomnia is described as difficulty falling asleep, but difficulty staying asleep is also a symptom. There are many possible causes for insomnia including lifestyle choices (caffeine, alcohol, exercise or a lack of it), medical conditions, environmental issues including noise or vibrations nearby, etc.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has resources for those suffering from insomnia including a tool that can be used in the diagnostic stages called the Insomnia Severity Index, which features a set of questions designed to help sufferers know more about their condition. Using this tool can help estimate what level of insomnia is experienced:
- No clinically significant insomnia
- Subthreshold insomnia
- Clinical insomnia (moderate severity)
- Clinical insomnia (severe)
You can use this tool on your own before a doctor visit to help prepare for it, and bring it with you as an aid for your care provider to better understand the nature and severity of the issue. You can find the Insomnia Severity Index at the VA site myhealth.va.gov.
The VA official site describes radiation as being present in “two broad types” including non-ionizing and ionizing radiation. The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety And Health official site reminds us that non-ionizing radiation includes visible light, ultraviolet light, microwaves, radio frequencies, lasers, etc.
So while there can be occupational hazards associated with non-ionizing radiation (prolonged and unprotected sun exposure is one major issue), ionizing radiation presents a bigger hazard.
Ionizing radiation is essentially what most people think of when discussing radiation-the effects of nuclear fallout, radioactive material in nuclear waste, depleted uranium, nuclear weapons, etc.
The VA offers help and advice to those who are concerned about their occupational exposure to ionizing radiation as part of military service. The VA Ionizing Radiation Registry health exam is offered to eligible Veterans “to alert them to possible long-term health problems”.
Have you performed military duty in a capacity that has exposed you to ionizing radiation? The VA advises seeking more information if you have any experience with the following circumstances or sources of exposure:
- Radiological cleanup of Enewetak Atoll
- S. Air Force plutonium clean-up mission, Palomares, Spain
- Fukushima nuclear accident
- Radiation-risk activity (including “Atomic Veterans” exposed to nuclear weapons testing and the American occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
- Military occupational exposure including duty involving nuclear weapons technicians and x-ray technicians
- Depleted uranium
- Long Range Navigation Stations
- McMurdo Station, Antarctica nuclear power plant
- Nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) radium irradiation treatments
- Radiation therapy
The Department of Veterans Affairs advises vets that their military records usually contain documentation of radiation exposure; veterans are not required to contact the Defense Department to confirm exposure to ionizing radiation or get permission to seek benefits related to this exposure.
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