Prevalence of Chronic Fatigue and Chemical Sensitivities in Gulf Registry Veterans.

BACKGROUND: More than 68,000 of the 70,0000 veterans of the Gulf War have become members of the Veteran Affairs' Gulf War Registry. In 1995, a questionnaire study of the symptoms and medical histories reported by a randomly selected sub-sample of 1,935 of these veterans was given to characterize their complaints.

METHODS: All questionnaire results were based on responses made without face-to-face evaluation or physical exams. Standard questions about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Syndrome were on the questionnaire used. A total of 1161 (60%) individuals responded, and there were no major demographic biases. 15.7% of registry veterans qualified for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in accordance with the 1994 Centers for Disease Control definition. In addition, 13.1% qualified for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities in accordance with a widely used definition, and 3.3% of the respondents had both conditions. There were no effects of gender, race, branch, duty status (active or reserve), or rank, although Multiple Chemical Sensitivities was somewhat more prevalent in women and African Americans.

CONCLUSION: The data gleaned in this study suggested that the unexplained symptom syndromes of Chronic Fatigue and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities may characterize an appreciable portion of the complaints of those who volunteered for the Veterans Affairs' Gulf War Registry, and further investigation is warranted.

Source:  Arch Environ Health 1999 Sep-Oct;54(5):313-8. Kipen HM, Hallman W, Kang H, Fiedler N, Natelson BH. New Jersey Center for Environmental Hazards Research, East Orange, USA.

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