Gulf war veterans' health: Medical evaluation of a U.S. cohort

Seth A. Eisen, Man K. Kang, Frances M. Murphy, Melvin S. Blanchard, Domenic J. Reda, William G. Henderson, Rosemary Toomey, Leila W. Jackson, Renee Alpern, Becky J. Parks, Nancy Klimas, Coleen Hall, Hon S. Pak, Joyce Hunter, Joel Karlinsky, Michael J. Battistone, Michael J. Lyons

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Background: United States military personnel reported various symptoms after deployment to the Persian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War. However, the symptoms' long-term prevalence and association with deployment remain controversial. Objective: To assess and compare the prevalence of selected medical conditions in a national cohort of deployed and nondeployed Gulf War veterans who were evaluated by direct medical and teledermatologic examinations. Design: A cross-sectional prevalence study performed 10 years after the 1991 Gulf War. Setting: Veterans were examined at 1 of 16 Veterans Affairs medical centers. Participants: Deployed (n = 1061) and nondeployed (n = 1128) veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. Measurements: Primary outcome measures included fibromyalgia, the chronic fatigue syndrome, dermatologie conditions, dyspepsia, physical health-related quality of life (Short Form-36 [SF-36]), hypertension, obstructive lung disease, arthralgias, and peripheral neuropathy. Results: Of 12 conditions, only 4 conditions were more prevalent among deployed than nondeployed veterans: fibromyalgia (deployed, 2.0%; nondeployed, 1.2%; odds ratio, 2.32 [95% CI, 1.02 to 5.27]); the chronic fatigue syndrome (deployed, 1.6%; nondeployed 0.1%; odds ratio, 40.6 [CI, 10.2 to 161]); dermatologie conditions (deployed, 34.6%; nondeployed, 26.8%; odds ratio, 1.38 [CI, 1.06 to 1.80]), and dyspepsia (deployed, 9.1%; nondeployed, 6.0%; odds ratio, 1.87 [CI, 1.16 to 2.99]). The mean physical component summary score of the SF-36 for deployed and nondeployed veterans was 49.3 and 50.8, respectively. Limitations: Relatively low participation rates introduce potential participation bias, and deployment-related illnesses that resolved before the research examination could not, by design, be detected. Conclusions: Ten years after the Gulf War, the physical health of deployed and nondeployed veterans is similar. However, Gulf War deployment is associated with an increased risk for fibromyalgia, the chronic fatigue syndrome, skin conditions, dyspepsia, and a clinically insignificant decrease in the SF-36 physical component score.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-890+I-22
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 7 2005

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    Eisen, S. A., Kang, M. K., Murphy, F. M., Blanchard, M. S., Reda, D. J., Henderson, W. G., Toomey, R., Jackson, L. W., Alpern, R., Parks, B. J., Klimas, N., Hall, C., Pak, H. S., Hunter, J., Karlinsky, J., Battistone, M. J., & Lyons, M. J. (2005). Gulf war veterans' health: Medical evaluation of a U.S. cohort. Annals of internal medicine, 142(11), 881-890+I-22.