Background: Multiple symptoms have been reported in American Gulf War Veterans including headache, fatigue, impaired short-term memory, sleep disturbances, agitation, respiratory symptoms, muscle and joint pain, diseases of the skin, and intermittent fever. The Danish Gulf War Study was performed to clarify if a corresponding pattern existed among Danes having served in the Persian Gulf during and mainly after the conflict.
Material and methods: A cross-sectional study was performed during the period January 1997 to January 1998 which included 821 subjects who had been deployed in the Persian Gulf within the period August 2 1990 until December 31 1997. Of 686 (83.6%) subjects who participated in the study, 95% had been engaged in peace keeping operations after the war. A group consisting of randomly selected age- and gender matched controls, comprised 231 of 400 potential participants (57.7%). All participants underwent clinical and paraclinical examinations, and had an interview based on a previously completed questionnaire.
Results: Unspecific symptoms such as repeated fits of headache, fatigue, memory and concentration difficulties, sleep disturbances, agitation, dyspnea, diseases of the skin, and intermittent fever, were significantly more frequent among Danish Gulf War Veterans, p < 0.05, than among controls; no association was found with respect to muscle and joint pain. The higher symptom prevalence among Gulf War Veterans was observed for conditions which had made their first appearance during or after the Gulf War. The prevalence of symptoms which made their first appearance before August 2 1990 was similar for both groups.
Conclusion: Except for musculo-skeletal symptoms, this study demonstrated a pattern of symptoms among Danish Gulf War Veterans consistent with the findings among American Gulf War Veterans. Considering that American Gulf War Veterans were predominantly deployed during the armament phase and the brief war phase, and that Danish Gulf War Veterans were predominantly deployed after the war in peace keeping missions, the results indicate the existence of some common risk factors independent of war action.