IED Blasts Affect Veterans Even after They Return Home

Considered one of the region’s best neurosurgeons, Dr. Ilyas Munshi opened his private practice in Lafayette, Louisiana in 2001. Among a number of other professional interests, Dr. Ilyas Munshi is concerned about research that indicates that military veterans who have survived large explosions may have sustained brain damage, even if they display no symptoms.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have learned that some of the axons, which are long nerve fibers in the brain, break when subjected to the shock of a large explosion, such as those caused by an improvised explosive device (IED). When these fibers break, protein packets that travel through them clog at the point of the break, causing swelling.

While there are generally no specific symptoms associated with this disorder, called axonal swellings, veterans who have survived IED explosions frequently have problems returning to civilian life. The problems are not as severe as punch-drunk syndrome, which is caused by multiple concussions, but it often includes such things as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, adjustment disorders, and substance abuse. The Johns Hopkins researchers note that recognizing that these problems may have a neurological foundation, when manifested by returning veterans, may be a significant factor in treating them.

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