What are these problems? The symptoms reported by Gulf
veterans can vary from person to person. The most common
problems include chronic headaches, joint pain, fatigue,
memory problems, mood disturbances, diarrhea and other
digestive difficulties, respiratory problems, and skin rashes.
The Kansas study was the first to identify clear links
between Gulf veterans' health problems and the time and
places in which they served. Results suggest that the
unexplained health problems may be due to multiple factors.
The study, conducted by telephone interview, compared the
health of Kansas Gulf War veterans to veterans who served
in other areas during the war. A scientific article describing the
study results was published in the November 15, 2000,
issue of The American Journal of Epidemiology.
"Gulf War illness" symptom pattern The study found 6
types of symptoms connected with Gulf War service:
neurological symptoms, pain symptoms, gastrointestinal
problems, respiratory problems, problems associated with
fatigue and sleep difficulties, and skin problems.
Individually, these symptoms can occur in anyone from time
to time. But the research identified a pattern of several types
of symptoms together, that is, symptoms in 3-6 of the
identified symptom groups. This symptom pattern was
common in Gulf veterans, but not in veterans who did not
deploy to the Persian Gulf. Gulf War-related symptoms had
persisted for at least a year, and often for many years. This
pattern of multiple, chronic symptoms was referred to as
"Gulf War illness" in the Kansas study.
About a third of Gulf veterans affected Over all, 34% of Kansas
veterans who served in Desert Shield or Desert Storm had
symptoms of Gulf War illness. The severity of these problems
varied widely. Some veterans had relatively mild symptoms;
others were so ill they could no longer work.
The Kansas study found that Gulf War-related health problems were not reported equally by all veterans. Illness rates
were connected with where and when veterans served in the theater of operations, and with veterans' rank and branch of
service. For example, higher rates of illness were found in Army veterans than in other branches, and in enlisted personnel
than in officers.
Veterans who were in Iraq or Kuwait had the highest rate of illness-42%, compared to only 21% of those who served
primarily on board ship. Veterans who served in Desert Shield, but left the region before the air campaign, had the lowest
rate of illness -- only 9%. For veterans who were in theater during Desert Storm, illness rates were highest for those who left
the area 4-5 months after the February 28, 1991, cease-fire.