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New study released on veterans and brain injuries

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left many veterans from Chicago with injuries. Some of these injuries are not as obvious as an amputated leg or a missing arm. However, a traumatic brain injury can be just as bad as any war injury. TBI is a trademark injury of these wars and they are often caused by concussive blasts that leave an individual's brain rattled and shaken.

Researchers have been studying the effects of TBI for some time now to better understand how to diagnose it and what its long-term effects can be. A recent study found that veterans were still battling headaches, dizziness, and depression, among other systems, as late as eight years after the injury occurred, even though their injuries were considered mild.

The study looked at 500 veterans who were screened for general health and depression issues between 2008 and 2011. Patients diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome were separated into groups based on how long it had been since the injury. Those groups included individuals who had received the injury during various spans of time; within two years, three to four years, five to six years and seven to eight years. The majority of the participants in the study were men.

Researchers defined "mild" brain injuries as those that did not necessitate surgery, showed no severe lacerations and did not include any skull fractures.

Patients were told to rate symptoms such as depression, difficulty with decisions, poor coordination, balance problems, dizziness and headaches. Once the participants had done so, researchers examined the results and found that neither the time since the injury nor the type of injury mattered. There wasn't any significant difference in the intensity or frequency of symptoms.

An author for the study did note that the five-to-eight year group showed a higher rate of depression. This detail, in conjunction with the general results, has led the researchers to believe that traumatic brain injuries may not go away and may get worse over time.

Source: U.S. News, "For Combat Vets, Brain Injury Symptoms Can Last Years," Lisa Esposito, June 20, 2012

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