Proud Battle Wounds: 5 Key Skin Scar Facts for Military Personnel

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As soldiers leave the battlefield after a war ends, many of them are left to battle with emotional and physical scars. The near death experience and the loss of their comrades often leaves them emotionally vulnerable.

At the same time, most of these young men and women suffered injuries that leave physical scars and physical impairment. Yes, these soldiers have suffered proud battle wounds, but these marks will also remind them of the horrible experiences in the past. This can keep them from living a normal civilian life

Let us explore the five key skin scar facts of military personnel and how they impact their lives:

1. More Soldiers are Surviving their Wounds, But Many End Up with Permanent Scars

Deaths and injuries are common in the battlefield, but with the latest advances in armor technologies and medical treatment, more soldiers can survive. Injuries from explosions, burns and gunshots that were once fatal are now either preventable or not as serious as in the past.

soldierThese developments have led to decreased numbers of deaths and increased numbers of wounded soldiers, meaning soldiers have a higher chance of returning to their homes and families unscathed. At present, less than 10 percent of soldiers with battle wounds die, significantly lower than the 19 percent in World War II, and 16 percent in the Vietnam War.

While a lower mortality rate is good news, these soldiers may return with severe injuries that require intensive medical care and surgical treatments. Some soldiers lost their limbs, while many others developed scars made deep by the emotional impact of being on the battlefield.

Due to these injuries, many returning military are unable to find jobs. Some will become dependent on their families or will isolate themselves, while many soldiers will lose their spouses. This is the high price they have to pay for their service to our country.

2. As Warfare Technology Advances, The Types of Injuries Have Changed

The Civil War is considered one of the deadliest wars in American History. During this period, most deaths did not result from wounds and injuries,but diseases due to a lack of sanitation, poor hygiene, contaminated water,poor medical knowledge and a limited number of medical staff.  Dysentery or severe diarrhea topped the killer diseases.

Soldiers who died from diseases were twice as high compared to those who died from injuries and battle wounds. Moreover, those who acquired battle wounds were from gunshots, specifically the percussion rifle.

It was during the World War I when the Germans first used flame throwers they could launch to fire at jets at 130 feet. It was also during this time when the British classified their tanks into two types, male and female. Male tanks had cannons, while female tanks had heavy machine guns. As military weapons progressed and medical skills improved, two-thirds of the deaths during the war were from battle wounds, and not diseases.

warshipsYears after, another bloodbath began, which was World War II. It was the costliest war that inflicted the most damage to people and property. Weapons of destruction during this era include explosives, warships and military aircraft. Of course, enemies have to counter their warfare technologies, too.

With the changes of nature in warfare, the cause of death and the type of injuries suffered by soldiers radically changed. Today, most injuries are obtained from shrapnel, burns and vehicular damage from explosive devices that leave prominent scars all over the body, especially the face.

3. Facial Injuries Have Dramatically Increased

Soldiers wear body armor and helmets to increase their chances of surviving a military operation. Surely, these body defenses saved many lives, but they do not protect some parts of the body such as the face making it vulnerable to wounds from blasts and burns.

Many soldiers suffer facial alterations from minor to severe. Some soldiers suffer from broken facial bones, while others suffer from burns that keep them from opening or closing their mouths or eyelids. Worse yet, some war veterans have such severely mutilated faces that they may need to undergo a full face transplant.

According to the statistics, 40 percent of those wounded in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq received severe destructive blows to the face. They did not acquire mere scratches or cuts. Their faces were burnt to the extent that their families did not even recognize them.

4. Severe Injuries Have Become Common, Along with Deadly Shrapnel Wounds

Bomb threats could easily terrify a person, even without the actual explosion. You can only imagine how soldiers must feel when they are on the battlefield where anything can happen anytime.

explosiveSoldiers often encounter explosive devices that release shrapnel or small fragments of metal from bombs. These fragments tear through the body, causing significant damage to body tissues. The impact of these explosions can also cause burns, blunt trauma or crush injuries, loss of hearing and traumatic brain injuries.

During the war in Iraq, enemy troops used improvised explosive devices (IEDs)against the U.S. forces. These types of detonated explosives that propel shrapnel often serve the purpose of roadside bombs for ambushing passers-by.

According to the chairman of the Department of Medical History at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Dale C. Smith, shrapnel explosions have become the single deadliest weapon of war,with the exception of nuclear weapons.

Shrapnel can slice through vehicles, and the blast turns surrounding objects into dangerous projectiles, hitting the people inside. As a result, a lot of soldiers have become amputees and now have to walk on prosthetic legs. Others suffered extensive wounds on their faces, arms and torsos. A single explosion can send up to 100 tiny fragments into a soldier’s body, causing extensive damage.

Shrapnel wounds have become part of every war and one of the top causes of fatal injuries. Recently, RevMedx, a medical technology company created a device that can inhibit bleeding in shrapnel wounds. The device, which they named, XStat, is an injection that releases sponge discs containing anti-hemorrhagic medication. The discs can expand up to 10 times their original sizes in seconds to plug the hole of wounds and stop the bleeding.

Every minute counts in emergency situations, and with this recent medical development, medics can save more lives; however, there are certain spots in the body where they can’t use XStat, and they have to remove the tiny discs will have to be removed from the wound later.

5. Battle Scars Often Leave Veterans with a Poor Body Image

veteransIn this present age, people weigh a person’s intellect and personality by their appearance. This is the reason many war veterans suffer from a negative body image resulting from the scars they endured after the war. The sad part is, the same people who judge them are the same people they signed up to protect.

When you say “war veteran,” it does not necessarily mean a senior. It could be someone in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s, meaning young people who are at the prime of their lives. People who date, people who want to find other means of living, and people who want to live normally after being on the battlefield; however, you have to ask yourself, will life ever be the same again for them?

With the advancement of modern medical care and treatment, soldiers today can survive the once-fatal injuries of war from the past. Thus, soldiers have higher chances of coming back home to their families, but at the same time,they will have to live with physical alterations and even the loss of their normal body functions.

Burns, blast injuries to the head, neck, arms and stomach often leaves marks or scars. These physical alterations can shake your confidence and self-perception, which can lead to serious emotional problems, such as depression, post-traumatic stress and sexual dysfunction. Many of the veterans who acquire physical scars shy away from people because of their altered appearance.

In one study conducted by a group of researchers, the results showed that body-image distress was higher in war veterans who suffered appearance-related injuries than those who did not. They also reported higher numbers of depression and more severe symptoms of post-traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD).

The 91 veteran participants were from the Iraq, Afghanistan, Desert Storm and Vietnam wars, and they were seeking treatment for PSTD. About 80 percent of them had physical injuries. They got their findings of the study after asking participants to answer the Dysmorphic Concerns Questionnaire, a test that focuses on determining physical appearance issues.

Effective Scar Treatments for War Veterans

fear of redicule or rejectionThese young veterans will return to their homes and will have to face another battle. Most of them will have to look for another job or find a new partner. Most of all, they will try to go back to doing things they used to do; however, life will never be the same again for them.

Why? Because employers are less likely to hire someone with a huge scar on their face. With the physically vain people of today, it would be next to impossible to land a date if your face is disfigured.And, most times these young veterans would rather distance themselves from other people for fear of redicule or rejection.

If you are a veteran, or if you have a friend or family who is a veteran, you should know there is still hope for regaining your life with the following scar treatment options.

1. Affordable Home Remedies for Your Minor Scars

The use of home remedies varies, of course, on the severity of the scar. It may be effective for minor scars, but for deep and extensive scars, advanced treatments may be necessary.

First and foremost, what you eat can help a lot in your recovery. The nutrients, vitamins and minerals you get from food can help accelerate healing and repair. Wounds that heal slowly are more likely to form unsightly scars. Eat a balanced diet consisting mainly of fresh fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts, lean meats and a variety of vegetables.

Next, apply foods that can help lighten the scars. Lemon juice, cucumbers and olive oil all have skin lightening agents that may help improve the appearance of your scars. You can also try herbal extracts such as aloe vera extract, lavender oil and tea tree oil, because they are known to promote the growth of healthy skin that can cover the damaged part.

creamsFinally, invest in some skin creams or lotions that contain vitamin E and/or collagen. Both substances promote skin tissue repair and healthy skin growth. They also contain moisturizers to keep the skin supple. Dry skin, especially on the wound area, can cause itching.

Are home remedies effective? Yes, they are, if you use these products frequently and consistently depending on the type of your scar. Another tip, avoid picking or removing the film from your wounds constantly because it can delay healing and encourage the formation of a scar. Constantly touching wounds also makes your risk of infection higher, which can also delay the healing process.

2. Secondary Reconstructive Surgery to Restore Your Physical Appearance

When a soldier suffers an injury, the first person to evaluate the extent of damage will be the physical therapist. Nowadays, physical therapists are also sent to the fields of war, and even in the middle of combat zones with active military troops. Having physical therapists on site enables injured soldiers to receive immediate care without the need to evacuate to another facility.

But before that, soldiers should be cleared of life-threatening conditions, such as internal hemorrhage, extensive blood loss and hypothermia. Only then can physical therapists initiate a rehabilitation plan right away to get the soldier back on foot as soon possible. This also allows other healthcare providers to look into possible complications and psychological trauma.

Usually, the treatment program involves stimulating body tissues to restore function, coordination, flexibility and balance. If a soldier gets a severe injury, they will be taught adaptive skills to be able to perform daily tasks, even with a disability.

But, is the medical treatment provided enough for soldiers to recover fully?

Unfortunately, some soldiers cannot fully recover because they are left with disfigurements,which can alter their physical appearance and functions permanently. The sad news is, the Department of Veteran Affairs only covers surgeries that involve the restoration of functions, and not the surgeries to regain their pre-war appearance. Soldiers with disfigurements can undergo secondary reconstructive surgery to improve their quality of life, though.

surgerySecondary reconstructive surgery is a form of plastic surgery performed on people with physical structural abnormalities. The main goal of the procedure is to regain normal functions of a certain part of the body but people who want to achieve normal physical appearance can also undergo secondary reconstructive surgery.

Unfortunately, many of the war veterans cannot financially afford such an expensive treatment. The good news is, there are many non-profit organizations that are willing to extend their help to injured war veterans.

According to a non-profit organization that helps fund war veterans, the most common reconstructive surgery performed on war veterans are:

  • Ear Reconstruction
  • Nose Reconstruction
  • Shrapnel Removal
  • Scar Modification on the Face
  • Scar Modification on the Torso
  • Hand and Arm Reconstruction
  • Laser Treatments
  • Burn Treatments
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections to Fill Hollow Scars

These procedures have helped improve the physical appearance of many veterans. They have also improved their psychological disorders, such as depression and PSTD. Another secondary benefit is the new foundself-confidence that can greatly improve their social lives.

Furthermore, with the recent developments in plastic surgery, war veterans can now undergo non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures, such as laser and radio frequency. These procedures are less painful, offer a shorter recovery period and reduce scarring on the affected areas.

restore their physical appearancesIt is also important to note that while some war veterans may be able to restore their physical appearances before their injuries; secondary reconstructive surgery can only do so much, depending on the severity of the injury. For instance, if a soldier has suffered severe burns on their entire face, the severity of the damage may be reduced, but there is a low chance of restoring their past appearance.

Financial issue stop the list of why many war veterans cannot avail themselves of such treatments, but they can search for non-profit organizations that offer free surgical assistance for war veterans.

Treating the Invisible Scars of War

Coming home after a war has become a serious dilemma for most soldiers. As they leave their families on the battlefield, they will return to their homes back to their families before the war. They will go back to their normal lives before they became soldiers, but is life after war better for them?

When you go to war and get out, you will never be the same again. This is the harsh truth that most soldiers often say. According to most of them,no one will understand it,except a fellow soldier because they share the same experiences.After the war, more than the physical scars, war veterans will have to deal with the emotional crisis that arises from memories of the past conflicts.

Witnessing deaths of your comrades, killing enemies, dodging bullets, receiving sexual assaults and almost dying after being hit by an explosion will surely change you in many ways. After retiring from the military, many veterans suffer from aggression, depression, sexual dysfunction, and most commonly, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some veterans cannot even walk on the streets because their senses will even react during a harmless commotion, which results from being hyper-alert around the clock when in the battlefield. Some veterans isolate themselves, and others are involved in violent thinking. Some even feel that punching someone in the face is nothing bad compared to what they had to do back on the combat field.

And, the saddest part about our fallen heroes? Military suicide numbers have significantly increased and even outnumbered the number of combat deaths. In 2013 alone, 259 active-duty military personnel committed suicide. The interesting part, was that a recent report stated that only 15 percent of those who committed suicide experienced actual combat.

DoctorsAccording to the Department of Veteran Affairs, the number of veterans seeking help continues to increase. Their data shows that one million troops, from 2002 to 2009, left active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and became eligible for VA medical care.

The question is, why do so many war veterans remain untreated psychologically?

According to the research, out of the one million veterans, only 46 percent went for treatment. Doctors diagnosed 48 percent of those veterans with mental problems, but not all of them came back to get VA services due to several reasons, such as:

  • The fear of being seen as weak.
  • Not wanting to be treated
  • Worries that getting treatment will disrupt their privacy.
  • They would rather rely on family and friends for support.
  • They doubt VA treatments will be effective for them.
  • Problems with the cost of getting to the VA hospital for treatment.

Perhaps providing psychological assistance before troops are deployed may significantly help prevent future mental and emotional problems.

As soldiers return and leave the combat field, they have to face another big challenge of living a normal life. Sadly, many of them have suffered injuries that leave scars, which can forever change their lives.

Luckily, there are many treatments for war scars and injuries, as well as veteran organizations to help our returning military personnel. If you are one of them, do not hesitate to seek medical and emotional support. It is there for you and it can help you get back to a happy and healthy life.

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