Int J Epidemiol. 2005 Aug;34(4):810-9. Epub 2005 Apr 25.
Neurological status of Australian veterans of the 1991 Gulf War and the effect of medical and chemical exposures.
BACKGROUND: Since the 1991 Gulf War, concerns have been voiced about the effects on the health of veterans of Gulf War related medical and chemical exposures.
METHODS: Our cross-sectional study compared 1424 male Australian Gulf War veterans and a randomly sampled military comparison group (n = 1548). A postal questionnaire asked about the presence of current neurological type symptoms, medically diagnosed neurological conditions, and medical and chemical exposures. A neurological examination was performed as part of a physical assessment.
RESULTS: Veterans have a higher prevalence of neurological type symptoms (ratio of means 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2-1.5). Although the odds ratio (OR) of lower limb neurological type symptoms and signs in veterans compared with the comparison group was increased (OR = 1.6, 95% CI 1.0-2.7), it was of borderline significance, and there was no difference between groups according to a Neuropathy Score based on neurological signs alone (ratio of means 1.1, 95% CI 0.9-1.3). The increased OR of neurological type symptoms and signs suggestive of a central nervous system disorder (OR = 1.8, 95% CI 1.0-3.1) was also of borderline significance. Veterans were not more likely to have self-reported medically diagnosed neurological conditions, or to have neurological type symptoms and signs suggestive of an anterior horn cell disorder (OR = 0.9, 95% CI 0.5-1.6). The total number of neurological type symptoms reported by veterans, but not the Neuropathy Score, was associated with Gulf War related exposures including immunizations and pyridostigmine bromide in dose-response relationships, anti-biological warfare tablets, solvents, pesticides, and insect repellents.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows increased reporting of neurological type symptoms in Gulf War veterans, but no evidence for increased neurological effects based on objective physical signs. There may be a number of factors, including information bias, relating to increased neurological type symptom reporting in veterans.
PMID: 15851393 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]