ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pharoah's Wine Jar Yields Medicinal Secrets
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Vitamin D Plus Calcium Guards Against Fractures
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
CANCER
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
CAREGIVING
When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
New Guidelines for Treating Heart Failure
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
DENTAL, ORAL
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
DIABETES
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
DIET, NUTRITION
Vinegar Might Help Keep Off Pounds
Functional Foods Uncovered
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Cats Can Trigger Eczema in Some Infants
Preparing for a Chlorine Gas Disaster
Global Warming May Bring More Respiratory Woes
EYE CARE, VISION
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Action-Filled Video Games Boost Adult Vision
FITNESS
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Cocaine Spurs Long-Term Change in Brain Chemistry
Vitamin E Helps Treat Common Liver Disease
Man Dies of Brain Inflammation Caused by Deer Tick Virus
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
SENIORS
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
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Skin Woes Take Toll on U.S. Combat Troops

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Rashes, eczema and other common skin troubles can cause U.S. combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to be evacuated for treatment, a new report finds.

In the history of warfare, skin diseases have been responsible for poor morale and combat ineffectiveness, the researchers noted in the February issue of the Archives of Dermatology. In fact, in tropical and subtropical areas, more than half of the days lost by front line units are due to skin diseases.

"Although skin diseases are rarely fatal, they have significant morbidity; thus they have an appreciable effect on combat medicine and operational primary care," said study author Dr. Timothy A. McGraw, from the U.S. government's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the Pentagon Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic.

"This study evaluated a set of patients, all servicemen and women, who were evacuated from the war zones for ill-defined, non-traumatic skin conditions. The main outcome of the study was that dermatitis, benign melanocytic nevus [noncancerous moles], malignant neoplasms [skin cancers], urticaria [hives], and a group of nonspecific diagnoses were the most common post-evacuation diagnoses in our study population," McGraw said. "These diagnoses are similar to the most common dermatologic diagnoses from 20th-century wars."

"This is an important paper," added Dr. R. Rox Anderson, a dermatology professor at the Harvard Medical School Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston. "There are a wide variety of skin problems, created or made worse by the conditions faced by soldiers. Prevention, proper diagnosis and treatment benefit the individual soldier and those who depend upon them."

The study shows the high frequency and wide range of skin conditions involved, from life-threatening lesions to conditions that wear soldiers down, increase their risk of infection or their ability to function well, leave permanent scarring, or are simply a nuisance, Anderson added.

"The study suggests that thorough skin evaluation prior to deployments, early diagnosis, prevention and prompt care on site, and the availability of expertise by telemedicine technologies would make a difference," Anderson said.

"With a few exceptions, such as infectious diseases endemic to the countries of conflict, military skin problems have not changed much since 20th century warfare. What has changed is our ability to potentially deal with them," he added.

For the study, McGraw's team collected data on 170 military personnel who left combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan for six ill-defined dermatologic reasons between 2003 and 2006.

In total, 154 soldiers were seen by dermatologists and the others were seen by other doctors. Thirty-four individuals were diagnosed with dermatitis or general skin inflammation, 16 with non-cancerous moles, 13 with skin cancer and 11 with no conclusive diagnosis. Chronic itchy rash, eczema, hives and psoriasis were the other common conditions, the researchers found.

Skin troubles can worsen with sun exposure and extremes in temperature and humidity, the researchers said. Diseases common to the combat area, as well as insects and crowded living conditions, can also exacerbate dermatologic woes. Other factors include difficulty maintaining personal hygiene and the chafing and sweating caused by body armor, helmets and other protective gear, McGraw noted.

Several measures will reduce the likelihood of evacuation from the war zone for skin problems, McGraw said. These include identifying individuals with chronic skin diseases during medical screening before they are deployed and emphasizing preventive measures to clinicians in the field.

Doctors also need to develop specific treatment plans for soldiers with skin problems so that they can participate in lengthy deployments without requiring frequent visits to a dermatologist. In addition, diagnosing skin problems in combat zones needs to be more accurate, McGraw said.

Dr. Steve Feldman, a professor of dermatology, pathology and public health sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., believes that better training could cut the need to evacuate patients with skin problems.

"The people evacuated were evacuated for common skin conditions that were largely benign," Feldman noted. "Had there been greater dermatological expertise on site, maybe they wouldn't have had to evacuate those folks."

Perhaps tele-dermatology, where patients are evaluated by doctors who are not on-scene, or better training in dermatological issues could reduce the need to evacuate these troops, he said.

More information

For more on various skin conditions, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.



SOURCES: Timothy A. McGraw, M.D., Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md., Pentagon Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, Washington, D.C.; Steve Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor, dermatology, pathology and public health sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C.; R. Rox Anderson, M.D., professor, dermatology, Harvard Medical School Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; February 2009 Archives of Dermatology

Last Updated: Feb. 17, 2009

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