By Debbie Gregory.
Imagine if Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be diagnosed in a similar fashion to diabetes? Could doctors actually be able to determine whether or not someone suffers from PTSD, just by checking their blood? Research is currently underway at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that could ultimately make this type of diagnosis possible.
Researchers at UCSB’s College of Engineering are currently developing a device that could be used to test for PTSD in soldiers on the battlefield. The research is funded by the U.S. Army, and focuses on the engineering aspect of diagnosing PTSD. Naturally, this technology could also be used in medical facilities back home in order to prevent service members and Veterans from going undiagnosed and falling through the cracks.
Research and development for the device began after a discovery that properties of PTSD can be identified in the bloodstream of those affected. Chemical changes occur in a body when someone experiences high levels of fear and stress caused by external events. These chemical changes can affect how a body’s DNA is recorded and reproduced in new cells. Chemical changes caused by PTSD can cause irregular methylation patterns. This irregularity can affect how proteins found in DNA copy and express genetic code.
Currently, PTSD is usually diagnosed only after a person exhibits observable behaviors of the disorder, such as nightmares and hyper-arousal. PTSD sufferers usually have to submit to psychiatric counseling before they can be diagnosed. Many Veterans go undiagnosed and untreated for PTSD. Untreated PTSD can lead to high levels of anxiety, depression and even suicide.
Various testing methods include a device similar to a pregnancy test, a test that works like a blood glucose test, and another method would be through a blood test, similar to HIV testing.
Hopefully, the research being done at UCSB can result in a definitive, efficient way to diagnose PTSD. Those who have fought for their country deserve a fighting chance to conquer their mental health ailments. This all begins with the diagnosis.