Globally, the aftereffects of war are experienced in various ways, as combatants, non-combatants, and civil society end up as casualties. Nations on war with other nations often resort to decisions to quicken the outcome of war, and to bring about a decisive end. During the 1960s, when the US forces were in action in Vietnam, a liquid herbicide was seen as quick fix to strip away the dense foliage that afforded protection to enemy forces. While this may have helped achieve objectives, it has unfortunately exposed many to the effects of the liquid herbicide Agent Orange. This includes the local populace, veterans of the US forces, and the terrain. Following subsections offer a detailed compilation of agent orange side effects, to help individuals cope and handle the effects better.

Overview of Agent orange

The name Agent orange essentially refers to the orange-colored stripes around the barrels that contained the liquid herbicide. This is a combination of two active chemicals, that create a by-product – dioxin named TCDD, acronym for Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. The by-product, possesses carcinogenic properties, and the health complications associated with Agent orange are primarily due to the absorption and storage of dioxin in the body. One of the biggest problems linked to the herbicide, is the absence of any diagnostic tests to determine if an individual has been exposed to the herbicide. Therefore, most actions are based on assumptions that look at the presence of an individual at locations, or probability of having been exposed to the herbicide.

Other issues that are linked to the herbicide, is the long list of possible ailments and diseases from exposure. As a result, it is difficult to narrow down the symptoms and clearly link it to Agent Orange. For instance, symptoms linked to chronic B-cell leukemia and symptoms linked to prostate cancer are different, and it may be therefore difficult to easily identify the symptoms.

Illnesses linked to Agent Orange

Different categories of sicknesses are linked to Agent orange, including the conditions listed herein. Different types of cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart ailments, prostate conditions, liver diseases, and hypothyroidism are some of the commonly known diseases linked to the herbicide. Cancer associated with the herbicide include Hodgkin’s disease, soft tissue sarcomas, Multiple myeloma, Respiratory cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, AL amyloidosis, Chloracne, a rare skin condition, Ischemic heart disease, Peripheral neuropathy and Porphyria cutanea tarda. In addition to this, there are documented reports of children of veterans of the Vietnam war, ending up with birth defects – and this includes spina bifida. In addition to the above, studies are ongoing regarding the potential effect of Agent Orange. A stoic reminder of the strong effects is the fact that despite the passing of two generations, the effects still manifest in individuals whose parents or grandparents served in Vietnam.

Detailed look at diseases linked to Agent Orange

Here is a detailed look at diseases linked to the liquid herbicide.

#1 Parkinson’s Disease – This is known as an age-related degenerative condition, with elderly patients exhibiting symptoms such as shaking that is not controllable, difficulty in getting the coordination right, and challenges in performing routine tasks due to damage to nerve cells. These conditions are known to worsen over a period of time, and are only managed with medications. There is no cure for this condition, but management helps to protect the individuals from some of the possible symptoms. Agent orange is known to cause this condition among veterans.

#2 Peripheral NeuropathyAgent orange side effects experienced by veterans also include Peripheral neuropathy. This may often be diagnosed in patients with diabetes, when the blood glucose levels are not under control or managed with medications. It is important to note that the condition may also occur independently of diabetes.  Symptoms linked to the condition include pain, numbness in the hands and feet, and inability to tolerate heat. The patient may also experience problems with bowel movements, and may also have issues with the bladder. In addition to the numb feelings, the individual may also experience weakness in the muscles. These symptoms can be managed to ensure that the effects are not severe.

#3 Ischemic heart disease – This condition refers to the inhibition of adequate blood and oxygen supply to the heart. This is primarily attributed to a narrowing of arteries that supply the blood to the heart. Individuals exposed to the herbicide are likely to end up with either coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease. Symptoms that are indicative of this ailment include possible dizziness, pain in the chest pain, and difficulty in breathing. It is also possible that individuals may not experience any kind of symptoms, but may still have the condition. This is actually dangerous and life threatening as the possibility of a heart attack is high among patients who have not received treatment for the condition.

#4 Form of Cancer – Among the various possible forms of cancer that may afflict an exposed person, Multiple myeloma ranks high among the probable ailments. This refers to cancer that impacts white blood cells – the plasma cells. The effects on these cells affects the body’s ability to handle infections and various ailments, as the plasma cells have the important role of making blood plasma. The action of the affected cells, results in the healthy cells being prevented from being present to fight the infection.

Symptoms that are associated with the condition include overall weakness, fatigue, sudden illnesses, and abnormal pain in the bone. In addition to this, the patient may also experience weakness in the legs and may end up with numb feelings.

#5 Prostate Cancer – This is regarded as one among the most common outcomes from exposure to Agent Orange. While the possibility of other forms of cancer are the same, this has a higher probability. This can be resolved surgically, and with the advances in surgical procedures, recovery rates have increased considerably.  Procedures were earlier recommended for individuals up to a certain age; however, recent advances have made it suitable for individuals in all age groups.

#6 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – This is a condition that is quite similar to Hodgkin’s Disease with the exception of the difference in affected white blood cells. While this is considered as relatively more prevalent or common than Hodgkin’s Disease, the condition is actually more complex. As a result, it is difficult to treat the condition more effectively for desired outcomes. For instance, in Hodgkin’s disease the affected cells are typically in the neck region, and this may help to extend targeted treatment. However, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can affect cells in various parts of the body. As a result of this, the probability of detection of non-Hodgin’s lymphoma is more likely to occur when the condition has progressed. And treating the effects in different places also makes it more challenging as the possibility of side effects increase. Veterans exposed to the liquid herbicide are at risk of developing this condition.

#7 Porphyria Cutanea Tarda – This refers to a rare blood disorder that results in the formation of painful lesions on the skin. In addition to this, individuals with the condition are also known to develop sensitivity to sunlight, and may end up with blisters after exposure to sunlight. In addition to this, there is also the possibility of the individuals ending up with frequent sores from simple minor injuries. The skin may change over a period, and could appear scarred and crusted. The consistency of the skin may be thicker, while some areas are more likely to thin. The skin may become more prone to injuries, due to the sensitivity.

#8 Soft Tissue Sarcomas – This refers to the accumulation of cancer cells in the body, in the soft tissues. The condition may develop throughout the body, and may result in the formation of lumps or swelling in the body. Veterans are likely to contract this condition due to exposure to Agent Orange, and the treatment outcomes are graded as per the condition. For instance, grade 3 in the condition refers to poor prognosis and grade 1 is known to offer the best outcomes.

#9 Respiratory Cancers – Cancer of the lungs is another possible condition that may occur due to exposure to Agent Orange. Respiratory cancer refers to cancer that may develop in the lungs, in bronchus, in the trachea, or the larynx. Respiratory cancers are difficult to manage, and it is necessary to seek appropriate treatment when symptoms are witnessed.

#10 High blood pressure – The liquid herbicide is also linked to high blood pressure. In addition to high HP, the patient is also at risk of being diagnosed with serious blood cancers. This is attributed to the presence of specific proteins that are linked to blood cancer.  

#11 AL Amyloidosis – This refers to a protein disorder that is directly linked to exposure to Agent Orange. Patients with the condition end up with too many light chain proteins, and these proteins enter various organs, and consequently the organs work with lesser than desired efficiency. This condition is known to affect almost all organs, and it is therefore necessary to seek treatment at the earliest on observing symptoms. For instance, the condition could afflict the heart, the kidneys, and the skin, apart from the lungs and the stomach.

Symptoms that are commonly associated with the condition depend on the organs that are affected. For instance, symptoms that may be experienced include swollen feet, while some may experience pain in the chest. Other symptoms include carpal tunnel syndrome, and frequent bruising. The individual may also have to put up with acute and sometimes chronic constipation. The tongue may also end up getting enlarged abnormally.

#Other conditions

Agent orange side effects apart from the above compilation includes Chronic B-Cell Leukemia, Chloracne, Type 2 diabetes, Hodgkin’s Disease and hormone imbalances. These conditions could result in different health complications such as a weakened immune system that renders the patient incapable to ward off infections. Depending on the condition, it may sometimes be necessary to undergo a bone marrow transplant. While most of the effects are serious in nature and impact health, there are other effects that could have an impact on appearance also. For instance, the individual may end up with blemishes on the face, apart from cysts and blackheads. Hormonal imbalances are known to afflict babies born to mothers from the contaminated areas.

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