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Thursday, April 25, 2013

PTSD Or Hormone Disorder? ~ Perhaps A New Diagnosis To Consider For Returning Veterans

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"...Albert Einstein

Why we publish posts about research...


For as often as we write about addiction and co-occurring disorders like depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or bipolar disorder, many of our posts have to do with reporting on the results of new research, both preliminary results and peer reviewed results. By offering information about new research it allows us to remain hopeful that the next study will add one more critical piece to the baffling disease of addiction and provide some new answers to other mental health problems.

New research examines hormone deficiency in veterans who suffered blast concussion(s)


A new study was conducted by lead researcher Charles W. Wilkinson. He and his associates all work for the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington in Seattle. Wilkinson's interest was sparked by previous research results: In 2005 the results of a study were published in the European Journal of Endocrinology reporting that 40 percent of people who suffer a traumatic brain injury also are diagnosed with post-injury hypopituitarism.

Wilkinson recognized that a number of conditions associated with hypopituitarism can mimic other problems that veterans suffer, like PTSD and depression. Based on this knowledge, he set up a study to look at returning veterans who had experienced at least one blast concussion.

Study's parameters


Wilkinson's team gathered blood samples from 35 veterans. These veterans each had suffered at least one blast concussion while serving in a war zone. The timing of the concussion was at least one year prior to the blood sample, as it takes about one year for hormone changes to be evident. They examined blood concentrations of eight hormones produced by the pituitary, comparing these to normal levels of the same hormones.

Study's results


According to ScienceBlog the results showed:

"The researchers found that about 42 percent of these veterans showed abnormally low levels of at least one of these hormones. The most common low hormone was human growth hormone, which can cause behavioral and cognitive symptoms similar to PTSD and depression, along with increases in blood lipids and changes in metabolism and blood pressure that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The second most common problem was hypogonadism, changes in sexual hormones that can affect body composition and sexual function. The researchers also saw that some veterans had abnormally low levels of vasopressin and oxytocin, hormones that have been linked to psychiatric problems and bonding. Problems with these hormone levels, in addition to growth hormone, could lead to personality changes that affect relationships with loved ones."

The study's results, "Prevalence of Chronic Hypopituitarism After Blast Concussion," were presented at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting which was held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center the week of April 20-24, 2013. 

Going forward with more research


The researchers note that hypopituitarism occurs at a rate of 0.03 percent in the general population, so to see a level of 42 percent in the returning veterans who had experienced a blast concussion would indicate that further research and study would be suggested. everydayHEALTH reported regarding the study's results:

'The findings are promising, said Rachel Yehuda, PhD, director of the traumatic stress studies division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, but she cautioned that they are also very preliminary, as the study only looked at 35 veterans and has not yet been peer-reviewed. If the researchers are correct, she said, it may mean that a simple blood test could help thousands of veterans live a more normal life upon returning home. “This is very important research because the more we can learn about the nature of blast injury, the better we can treat it,” Dr. Yehuda said. “The good news is that it’s a lot easier to fix a hormone problem than a brain problem.” Hypopituitarism can be treated with corticosteroid medication, and in some cases, the problems may even resolve in their own, she said.'

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