Close to one fifth of the soldiers returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq are diagnosed with blast concussions, but many of these may actually have a rare hormone deficiency so uncommon that even military doctors don’t check for it.
According to a recent study by researchers at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington in Seattle, around 42 percent of veterans tested for blast injuries appear to have irregular hormone levels associated with hypopituitarism.
Hypopituitarism has symptoms that mirror other extremely common conditions for veterans such as PTSD and depression. The biggest difference between those conditions and this hormonal difficiency is that the hormone imbalance can be well-controlled through hormone replacement therapy. “This could be a largely missed opportunity for successful treatment,” said Charles W. Wilkinson, one of the leaders of the study.
According to ScienceBlog, the team of researchers will be presenting their findings at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting in Boston, but they are still considered preliminary as they have not been peer reviewed.
While hypopituitarism mimics PTSD, many researchers believe it comes from traumatic brain injury, which may explain why TBI and PTSD are often diagnosed simultaneously. Recent studies have shown that between a quarter and a half of all people who suffer TBIs have low pituitary hormone levels.
While this condition could be easily identified, it is rarely tested for in brain injury diagnostic testing. Unless they implement pituitary hormone level testing in standard TBI diagnostic procedures, the most common way to be diagnosed with hypopituitarism is to see an endocrinologist, a rare doctors appointment for most people. Sadly this means many will go untreated for an easily mitigated condition.