I’ve written previously about how science is now showing us that PTSD can lead to serious cardiovascular problems. However, the health problems that can stem from your PTSD are far from limited to only the cardiovascular system. Many common conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, and diabetes have been linked to PTSD.
The endocrine system regulates almost everything in the body, from eating to sleeping, growth, your immune system and mood. Think of the endocrine system as the communications network between different bodily systems. PTSD drastically alters this system, especially the pituitary and adrenal glands, and this breakdown of communications can cause one or more of these systems to go completely haywire. This can cause a drastic cascade effect throughout the body, often with severe repurcussions.
Most people are aware of the mental health effects of this hormonal dysfunction-depression, anxiety, hypervigilance- but many are not aware of subtler, physical problems that are less easy to detect. Studies show that 68% of Vietnam veterans with PTSD have chronic, physical diseases compared to only 48% of Vietnam veterans without PTSD. As I mentioned, many PTSD sufferers develop cardiovascular problems. However, many develop problems with their immune systems. These two systems are actually more closely related than they appear, as both coronary artery disease and many immunological diseases are primarily disorders of inflammation.
Veterans with PTSD have been shown to have abnormally high T-Cell and white blood cell counts, as well as lower amounts of cortisol. This is a recipe for disaster in the immune system, and one study looked at the prevalence of immune disorders in veterans with and without PTSD. The results were surprising. Veterans with PTSD were over THREE times more likely to suffer from any autoimmune disease, FIVE times more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, THREE times more likely to suffer from insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and EIGHT times more likely to suffer from thyroid dysfunction!
If you have service-connected PTSD, you may be able to claim autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid dysfunction as secondary to your PTSD.
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