U.S. Gulf War Veterans: Service periods in theater, differential exposures, and persistent unexplained illness

Peter S. Spencer, Linda A. McCauley, Sandra K. Joos, Michael R. Lasarev, Tomas Schuell, Dennis Bourdette, Andre Barkhuizen, Wendy Johnston, Daniel Storzbach, Michael Wynn, Ronald Grewenow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Approximately 80 000 of the 697 000 American men and women who were stationed in SW Asia during the Gulf War (GW) report unexplained illness consisting of symptoms of persistent fatigue, cognitive difficulties, such as mild memory loss, diffuse muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, skin lesions, and respiratory problems, among others. Associations between major symptom groups and periods of deployment in the theater of operations have been sought in a population-based, clinical case-control study of GW veterans resident in the north-western region of the United States. No statistically significant differences were evident in the proportion of cases with unexplained fatigue, cognitive/psychological or musculoskeletal symptoms among veterans present in SW Asia in 3 specific time periods: (a) 8/1/1990-12/31/1990 (which includes Desert Shield), (b) the period surrounding Desert Storm (1/1/1991-3/31/1991), and (c) the (post-combat) period immediately following hostilities (4/1/1991-7/31/1991). There was a trend for all 3 case symptoms to be more common among GW veterans who served in the post-combat period. As numbers in these deployment groups were small, and power to detect differences low, the apparent absence of significant differences in the frequency of major symptom groups among these veterans requires confirmation in a larger study. Deployment for discrete periods in SW Asia is a method to separate distinct constellations of environmental factors; these are useful for analyses of associations among symptoms and exposures given the near-total absence of objective data on chemical and other possible exposures in the theater of operations. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-521
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology Letters
StatePublished - Dec 28 1998


  • Case-control study
  • Deployment period
  • Fatigue
  • Gulf War
  • Musculoskeletal and cognitive symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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