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PTSD a Risk Factor for Long-Term Disease
Date:2/13/2008

Study finds trauma disorder as good a marker for health status as common chronic ills

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are as likely to have long-term health problems as people with other common, chronic disease risk factors, a new study suggests.

The findings, published in the current edition of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, come from examining the health status of 4,462 male Vietnam-era veterans 30 years after their military service.

Exposure to trauma has not only psychological effects, but can take a serious toll on a person's health status and biological functions as well, Joseph Boscarino, senior investigator with Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., said in a prepared statement. "PTSD is a risk factor for disease that doctors should put on their radar screens."

The study finds that PTSD was just as good an indicator of a long-term health status as having an elevated white blood cell count, which can indicate a major infection or a serious blood disease such as leukemia.

Veterans with high erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), which indicates inflammation, were also at risk. There was a similar finding for a possible indicator of serious neuroendocrine problems.

While these disease markers are measured with a blood test, PTSD is commonly measured with a psychological test or a mental health examination.

"As the conflicts in the Middle East continue, we're seeing a new wave of our service members who have post-traumatic stress," Boscarino said. "If we don't get these personnel help earlier, our research shows that they may experience more serious health problems down the road."

Almost anyone who experiences a traumatic event can experience PTSD, meaning accident and disaster victims are also predisposed to the biological risk factors associated with PTSD.

Although therapy doesn't
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