PTSD + Agent Orange = extra risk of Dementia

Exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War doesn’t seem to increase the risk of dementia on its own, but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors like PTSD…

In an analysis of Veterans Affairs data, having been exposed to Agent Orange and having PTSD together was associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia according to Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

They reported their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference…

Some 8% of veterans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, where it was used as an herbicide to clear dense areas of forest…

Many other studies have looked at the health effects of Agent Orange exposure, and there have been mixed results regarding its neurological effects. Some studies found no adverse neurologic effects, while several recent studies have found worse cognitive function with greater exposure. Other studies have shown that verbal memory is the most affected neurocognitive region among Vietnam veterans.

Yet there haven’t been any studies specifically looking at the relationship between Agent Orange and the risk of dementia among these veterans, Barnes said.

Consequently, she and colleagues accessed VA electronic medical record data on 46,737 Vietnam veterans over age 55 who had at least one baseline visit and one follow-up visit, and who did not have dementia at baseline.

They looked at Agent Orange exposure alone and in combination with PTSD…

Barnes noted that there was a significant difference between the exposed and unexposed populations at baseline. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange were younger and had more comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and PTSD…

When they looked at PTSD and dementia risk, however, they did find a significant association — and having both Agent Orange exposure and PTSD together was associated with a larger increase in risk of dementia…

“Agent Orange alone doesn’t appear to increase the risk of dementia,” Barnes said, “but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors such as PTSD.”

She cautioned that the findings were limited because the researchers weren’t able to measure the actual exposure to Agent Orange; they had to rely on patients’ own reports of exposure…

Soldiers on the line ain’t about to forget exposure to Agent Orange. Until they get Alzheimer’s, anyway.

And, no, that wasn’t meant to be a joke.

5 thoughts on “PTSD + Agent Orange = extra risk of Dementia

  1. Also says:

    The government of Vietnam says that 4 million of its citizens were exposed to Agent Orange, and as many as 3 million have suffered illnesses because of it; these figures include the children of people who were exposed. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems due to contaminated Agent Orange. The United States government has challenged these figures as being unreliable. Re: use of Agent Orange outside Malaya and Vietnam see The Seveso disaster also gives valuable comparative insight into the effects of Agent Orange on flora and fauna in Vietnam, not to mention the Vietnamese people, as TCDD was a significant contaminant in Agent Orange.

  2. Hope says:

    “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common psychic injuries in trauma victims, including soldiers after combat. Untreated, the fear, intrusive thoughts, hyperarousal, and emotional numbing it causes can last a lifetime. While progress has been made in understanding the dysregulation of brain circuits in PTSD, developing treatments has nonetheless remained challenging because of lack of insight into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying these changes. In a new study in this issue of PLOS Biology, Pawel Licznerski, Ronald Duman, and colleagues begin to reveal those mechanisms, showing that the function of a stress-regulated protein is reduced in the prefrontal cortex in people with PTSD and that reducing function of the protein in rats induces PTSD-like behavior.”

  3. gary gauthier says:

    i was at Phouc Vinh 68-69 31st. engr. bull dozer operator. i have had ptsd since i left. then i got skin cancer, now dementia. unfortunately this type of cancer is not agent orange approved, there are 3 others who served at this base same time with the same type of cancer, please write me, together we can serve a claim that cant be denied.
    thank you , gary, g.

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