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PTSD May Increase Risk of Diabetes

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Advocate for the Disabled
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June 3, 2010 - Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not a new phenomenon among veterans returning from -deployments. What is new is the amount of research being put into understanding PTSD, how the symptoms affect different veterans, and how PTSD affects the veteran's overall health, mental and otherwise.

A recent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study of over 44,000 active duty soldiers has put forth the idea that PTSD may increase a person's risk of developing diabetes. PTSD usually develops as a result of the soldier being exposed to an traumatic incident in which he or she perceived or was threatened with some form of physical harm.

PTSD Symptoms can include:

  • Persistent frightening thoughts;
  • Memories of the trauma;
  • Being emotionally numb;
  • Sleep problems;
  • Detachment; and
  • An exaggerated startle response.

 Researchers involved in the VA study believe the stress response associated with PTSD could lower the body's insulin levels which could lead to diabetes. 44,754 service members did not have diabetes when the study began. After 3 years they were tested again and 376 had been diagnosed with diabetes. Those that developed type -2 diabetes were more inclined to be:

  • Overweight or obese;
  • African American or Asian;
  • Male;
  • No longer in-service; and
  • Suffering from PTSD symptoms.

 Researchers eliminated all factors that increased the risk of diabetes, e.g., race, body weight, etc. The only thing remaining after the control was the presence of PTSD symptoms. For those with PTSD symptoms, the risk factor for diabetes more than doubles.

However, the VA's study was not only very limited but it also had flaws. These findings will need to be repeated before soldiers suffering from PTSD will be screened for diabetes as a precautionary matter. The researchers discovered this potential link between PTSD and diabetes, but they never explained why the link exists. This is just a first step in what will very likely be a long process. 

Category: Veterans' Disability

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