Find common veterans health and medical topics starting with the letter P that are related to military service and history. The guide covers health topics from A to Z. Read on for more information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, pharmacy benefits, and more VA health topics in the P category.
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.
Veterans should know about PACE, which stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. The VA official site describes PACE as, “an optional benefit under both Medicare and Medicaid.” PACE is only for seniors (veterans included) considered “frail enough to meet their State’s standards for nursing home care.”
PACE is NOT a VA benefit, but is something a VA representative can help qualifying veterans sign up for; the program includes medical and social services typically offered via adult day care providers, a nursing home, or an inpatient facility. PACE can help qualified elderly veterans remain at home while receiving care. This is only available in states that choose to provide the service via Medicaid.
To see if you or a loved one qualifies for PACE, the VA official site has the following list of requirements:
- Be at least 55 years old
- Live in a PACE service area
- Be screened by a care team
- Meet the “state nursing facility level of care” requirement
- Be adaptable to life in a community setting at the time of enrollment into the PACE program
The VA places a priority on effective pain management, especially where opioids are concerned. The VA official site’s general philosophy toward pain management for veterans being treated with VA services includes the following commitments:
- Educating Veterans and their families “to promote self-efficacy and shared decision making.”
- Educate and train all health care team members to “discipline specific competencies,” including team-based care.
- Explore options for “non-pharmacological modalities” into individual health care plans that require pain management.
- Use “evidence-based medication prescribing” and promote safe opioid use.
- Monitor pain care.
- Monitor outcomes “at both the individual level and the population level” related to pain care.
Pain management does not always require the use of opioids, and there are many non-prescription options you may discuss with your primary care provider. Don’t forget to ask about alternatives to opioids that may still require prescriptions, but make sure you have as much information about the types of VA-provided pain management solutions as possible; you may discover alternatives you haven’t heard about previously.
The VA official site offers a free chronic pain management course – search the official site using the keywords, “VHA Pain Management” or “Chronic Pain Management Course” to learn more.
Generally speaking, palliative care is specialized attention for those suffering from serious illnesses.
VA Palliative Care options are described as “services that relieve suffering and help control symptoms in a way that respects your personal, cultural, and religious beliefs and practices,” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These services include consultation, follow-up visits, referrals and care coordination that can help veterans get access to local resources, etc.
This kind of care and the need for it will vary depending on the patient, but all who are enrolled in VA health care services are eligible to apply if they can demonstrate a medical need for such care. Ask a VA representative about Palliative Care and when it is appropriate to add it to a care regimen or treatment plan.
There are differences between a common seasonal flu outbreak and the phenomenon described as pandemic flu; the VA official site describes a pandemic flu outbreak as what happens in cases where a new flu virus spreads across the globe; a new version of the flu virus can potentially infect many more people than a standard seasonal variety.
It’s impossible to predict where such an outbreak may occur or what its likelihood of becoming a serious problem might be; it’s best to employ the same preventive measures taken during seasonal flu outbreaks to prevent the spread of a pandemic-level flu even.
Those measures include frequent handwashing, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, avoiding direct contact with sick people, and obtaining a flu shot if or when a vaccine becomes available for that strain of flu.
Parkinson’s Disease is described as a chronic neurological disease caused by “a loss of dopamine producing cells in the brain,” according to the VA. There are two kinds of symptoms of Parkinson’s; motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms.
Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Tremors while at rest
- Stiff limbs
- Slowness of movement
- Balance problems
- Walking problems
Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Sleep disturbances
- Urinary dysfunction
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mood disorders
- Cognitive deficits
There is no cure at the time of this writing for Parkinson’s Disease, but there are treatment options including VA care that veterans and their family members should look into. Some causes of Parkinson’s Disease may be service connected, so it’s vital not to make any assumptions about being able to qualify for VA care in this area. Let a VA care provider perform an evaluation to see what types of care you may be eligible to receive to treat Parkinson’s or related conditions.
The human body has nerves outside the brain and spinal cord; these nerves are subject to a medical condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms of the condition may include numbness, tingling, or other sensations in toes or fingers (an early symptom of the condition).
As the condition progresses, these symptoms may spread and intensify into burning, throbbing, or shooting pain. These symptoms often get worse at night. Coordination can be affected, and those suffering from peripheral neuropathy may experience difficulty walking, sensitivity to touch, and other problems.
The Department of Veterans Affairs presumes certain veterans have this condition as a service-related medical issue. Being exposed to Agent Orange (or other herbicides) while serving and experiencing symptoms within a year of that exposure could qualify a veteran for care and/or benefits related to this condition. It’s crucial to be evaluated for any such exposure or symptoms as early as possible.
The VA definition of polytrauma is associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Specifically, when TBI is “associated with a significant secondary injury” such as a burn, broken bones, amputation, or other physical conditions, the combination is described as polytrauma.
And polytrauma isn’t associated only with TBI and other physical medical issues; mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, and other problems may also be described as polytrauma when they occur with TBI.
Polytrauma is commonly linked with explosions or, as the VA official site says, “an explosive event.” The VA Polytrauma System of Care, also known as PSC for short, involves a network of rehabilitation programs that are designed to help service members recover. These programs may include:
- Interdisciplinary evaluation
- Interdisciplinary treatment
- Creating a comprehensive health care plan
- Patient and family education
The VA has partnered with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center to conduct research and create policy to help those who suffer from polytrauma. If you are registered for VA health care or are eligible to do so, seek advice from the VA about getting screened for TBI and/or polytrauma if you feel your symptoms may be on the spectrum.
Starting in 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs began requiring mandatory Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) screenings for all Veterans “accessing care in VA that served in combat operations and separated from active duty service after September 11, 2001.” But if you did not receive such a screening, contact the VA immediately if you feel your condition is related to TBI or polytrauma.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
If you have experienced a life-threatening event, or witnessed one, you may experience symptoms related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You can get PTSD in any number of ways, and not all of them are combat-related. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site advises that PTSD can be caused by a sexual assault, car accidents, natural disasters, and many other situations.
It is a common response to trauma to have bad dreams, disruption of daily life, intrusive thoughts, and even depression. But if these symptoms persist more than a few months, that may be an indication that you may suffer from PTSD.
And PTSD is not a single-cause issue. You can experience new trauma and see a corresponding increase in PTSD symptoms. Those symptoms, especially when aggravated by new trauma, can include substance abuse, explosive anger or unusually quick anger responses, avoidance, isolating oneself from friends and family, etc. Hypervigilance, preoccupation with danger or safety, and a feeling of numbness are also common.
There are a variety of treatment options available for qualifying veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system. You may be advised to try cognitive therapy which involves trying new ways to approach common issues, thinking your way through upsetting circumstances, etc. But you may also be recommended for a combination of such therapies or counseling along with medication and even physical therapy where applicable.
Many popular PTSD therapies involve revisiting the traumatic event to re-experience it, demystify it, and approaching those memories with the goal of getting more familiar with them. This is sometimes referred to as “trauma-focused therapy” and seems to help many who suffer from PTSD.
Those who have issues with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues are urged to seek help from the VA or from your chosen care provider as soon as possible. It is not necessary to go through PTSD or related conditions alone; you can find help and improve the quality of your life with the right kind of medical care.
Contact the VA directly for immediate assistance, especially when dealing with feelings of hopelessness, isolation, or self-harm. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press “1” if you are a Veteran.
Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer among men born in the United States; VA statistics say one in six males may develop prostate cancer, and in a single year, more than 20 thousand people die from it.
There is no single cause for prostate cancer. Age, environmental factors, heredity, and other variables may all contribute to the possibility of contracting this disease, which may be treated by radiation therapy involving the placement of radioactive materials into the prostate, monitoring the growth or decline of cancer cells, and whether the cancer returns over time. Side effects are said to be “unusual” with this type of radiation treatment because, as the VA official site states, “the radiation is limited to a very small area of the body.”
According to the Mayo Clinic official site, prostate cancer may not show any symptoms in the earliest stages. But over time the following symptoms may occur:
- Difficulty urinating
- Decreased pressure or force while urinating
- Blood in semen
- Pelvic discomfort
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to seek medical advice as soon as possible. You should also be concerned with additional risk factors for prostate cancer – the causes of this type of cancer are unknown, but the following risk factors should not be taken lightly:
- Age – a man’s risk of prostate cancer increases as he gets older.
- Race – According to the Mayo Clinic, “For reasons not yet determined, black men carry a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races.” This type of risk factor may not be present for all cancer diagnoses, but for prostate cancer there is clinical evidence that the race of the patient may play a role in possible elevated risk of the disease.
- Heredity – if other men in your family have had prostate cancer, get screened as soon as possible. A family history of certain types of breast cancer may also pose an elevated risk for you.
- Weight issues – obesity is identified as a risk factor for prostate cancer, ask your primary care provider about this important risk.
Always seek the advice of a trained medical professional if you suspect you have any of the symptoms listed here.
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