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War Vets Going Blind
November 3, 2008
About 1.7 million American men and women have served in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Military studies show that up to 340,000 of them suffer from
mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). The injury most often happens as a result
of roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades or mortars. A TBI typically
occurs when the head suddenly and violently hits an object or when and
object pierces the skull and enters the brain. A person with a TBI may
remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds
or minutes. Symptoms may include headache, confusion, lightheadedness,
dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in
the mouth, fatigue, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes,
and trouble with memory or concentration. Little can be done to reverse the
initial brain damage caused by the trauma.
BLINDNESS: ANOTHER PROBLEM:
Preliminary studies reveal that as many as 70 percent of severely-wounded
soldiers treated for TBIs also complain of double vision, difficulties
reading and blindness. In another small study, conducted by Glenn Cockerham,
chief of ophthalmology at the VA Palo Alto, 26 percent of soldiers who had
been injured in blasts had severe visual impairment, including blindness.
“They may go months seemingly normal with headaches and all of a sudden,
bam, they have lost their vision,” Bill Wilson, a Blind Rehabilitation
Specialist at the Orlando VA Medical Center in Orlando, Fla., told Ivanhoe.
No one knows exactly how many veterans may eventually be blind or will have
to deal with other vision problems, but research suggests it could be
WHY DOES IT HAPPEN? Researchers believe certain parts of the brain, such as
the occipital lobe, which controls vision, take a pounding from blast shock
waves. This, in turn, can impair vision.
VETERANS SPEAK OUT:
Sgt. David Kinney is one veteran who has lost his eyesight. He was one of
the first American soldiers to go into Iraq. Now, he is considered legally
blind. At first, Kinney’s doctors thought he’d had a stroke. Later, he
learned he had suffered a mild TBI, and an Orlando neurologist eventually
linked his condition to his exposure to bombs. Now, Kinney cannot drive, and
relatives must take him to his eight monthly doctor appointments.
This year, the Veterans Health Administration is spending $40 million to add
55 outpatient vision-rehabilitation clinics nationwide and to increase staff
at existing facilities.
Reproduced from http://www.wftv.com/health/17874549/detail.html#-