What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Over 15-20% of all veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); many are never reported, or the veteran is unaware of his or her injury. A TBI is a type of brain injury which can occur by a fall, blast, or direct force to the skull. A TBI can cause a lack of cerebral blood flow and can cause the brain to swell, which can result in permanent loss of vision, brain damage, or death. An MRI scan normally is sufficient to diagnosis a TBI.
What are Symptoms of a TBI?
TBIs can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms overlap with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms of a TBI include migraines, slurred speech, tinnitus, memory loss, seizures, depression, difficulty making decisions, mood changes, impaired vision, restlessness, loss of coordination, severe fatigue, insomnia, and dilation of one eyes or both. Female veterans who come to the VA complaining of mood changes, depression, memory loss, fatigue, restlessness, and insomnia, are likely to be diagnosed with depression or severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and very few follow-ups or consultations with specialists are ever scheduled.
Female Veteran are Often Misdiagnosed with Not Having a TBI
A serious problem for females who suffer unknowingly from a TBI is at a severe disadvantage for being diagnosed with this potentially lethal injury by both the military and the Veteran Affairs. While it is true that male active-duty and veterans who are between the ages of 18-24 are at a much more higher risk from developing a TBI due to their military job, female veterans who experience a blast or a head injury, are just as likely to develop a TBI as their male counterparts.
Because most TBI suffers are males, females are often never asked if they suffered any type of head injury or blast when they returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan by base medical, and when they sign-up for the VA once they are discharged. Since females are less likely to be diagnosed with PTSD, many practitioners never question if the symptoms are truly from PTSD, or possibly from a TBI or both, a TBI and PTSD.
How Can You Help?
Contacting your local representatives to explain and to push them to create bills that would ensure the VA are screening every OIF and OEF veteran is one thing that can be done. Another would be starting an online conversation about the lack of medical screening female veterans get when they return from combat would also help push the VA to develop more thorough measures to diagnose every veteran with a TBI.
Lastly, the female veteran needs to be her own advocate when it comes to their own health care. Demand to be screened for a TBI if you ever suffered any type of injury or blast in the combat theater. By female veteran’s continuous demands for the VA to properly screen all veterans who present with classic symptoms of a TBI, will push the VA to develop new programs to ensure every veteran who has a TBI will be diagnosed correctly, and receive all benefits and care pertaining to the injury.