Objectives: To determine the prevalence and spectrum of GI complaints in a group of Persian Gulf veterans (PGV) and to compare these data to a group of veterans (controls) from the same unit who were not deployed to the Persian Gulf region.
Methods: A 68-item survey was distributed to 136 members of a single National Guard Unit. The survey asked the veterans to rate the frequency of GI symptoms before, during, and after the Persian Gulf war had concluded. The participants were also asked to rate frequency of 10 non-GI symptoms at the time of this survey.
Results: Fifty-seven PGV and 44 nondeployed veterans participated in the survey. Before the Persian Gulf war, both PGV and control groups reported low frequencies of GI symptoms. A majority of the PGV experienced GI symptoms during their deployment to the Gulf region, which persisted after their return to the United States. There were many significant differences observed between the two groups in frequency of both GI and non-GI symptoms. The greatest differences seen were for excessive gas, loose or greater than three stools per day, incomplete rectal evacuation, and abdominal pain.
Conclusions: A high prevalence of chronic GI symptoms exists in this group of PGV and is significantly greater than a group of controls. The most prevalent chronic GI symptoms are those that have been associated with functional GI disorders. However, the abrupt onset and clustering in this group suggests that nonfunctional etiologies may be contributing factors.