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The Connection Between Combat Injuries and Epilepsy

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A new study published in Neurology notes that Vietnam veterans who sustained a head injury while in combat may develop epilepsy later in life. MedlinePlus defines two main types of head injuries: open head injuries and closed head injuries. With an open head injury, an object penetrates the skull, directly impacting the brain. With a closed head injury, the skull does not break, but the force that causes the head injury can cause the brain to become injured as well. These head injuries can range from mild to severe.

A head injury can cause several symptoms. The patient may have a lack of coordination or changes in her pupil size after the injury. A severe headache, low breathing rate and stiff neck can occur. Clear or bloody fluid may be draining from the patient's ears, nose or mouth. The patient may not be able to move one or more of her limbs. Other symptoms of a head injury include vomiting, a drop in blood pressure, and impaired vision, hearing, smell or taste.

Reuters Health reports that this study was the third evaluation of a group of veterans with head injuries, which was 35 years after the initial injury. Most of the head injuries that the veterans sustained were open head injuries, such as from shrapnel. Reuters Health notes that a neurologist found that 44 percent, or 87 of 199, of these veterans developed post-traumatic epilepsy. The researchers point out that they are not sure how the head injuries cause the post-traumatic epilepsy, but the seizure disorder was more common among veterans who had pieces of metal from the injury in their brains.

The MayoClinic.com explains that to have epilepsy, a person must have at least two unprovoked seizures. The patient can have partial or generalized seizures. With a partial seizure, the abnormal electrical signals occur on one part of the brain. But with a generalized seizure, the abnormal electrical signals affect the whole brain. While the symptoms of epilepsy depend on what type of seizure that the patient has, possible symptoms include a loss of consciousness, temporary confusion, uncontrollable jerking movements of the limbs and a staring spell. The researchers of the Neurology study recommend that veterans who have sustained this type of head injury be screened for post-traumatic epilepsy. The MayoClinic.com adds that antiepileptic medications can help control epilepsy.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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