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A Review of Epidemiologic Studies of the Health of Gulf War Women Veterans

Journal: Journal of Environment and Health Science (Vol.3, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 1-9

Keywords : Gulf War syndrome; Gulf War veterans; Symptoms; Epidemiology; Women's health;

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Introduction: In the 25 years since the 1990-1991 Gulf War (GW), studies have evaluated Gulf War Illness (GWI), sometimes referred to as medically unexplained multi symptom illness, and other medical and neurological conditions in women GW veterans. Materials and Methods: In this article, we review epidemiologic studies of the health of women who served in the 1990-1991 GW based upon bibliographic searches in PubMed and CINAHL with relevant search terms through September 2015. Results: A total of 56 articles were identified in the bibliographic searches. By screening abstracts or full-text articles, a total of 21 relevant studies were identified. Results from some studies, but not all, suggest that GWI is more common in women GW veterans than their male counterparts. Few studies of GW veterans focused on women’s health. A small number of studies suggested excess rates of woman’s health problems, e.g., breast cysts, abnormal Papanicolaou (Pap) smears, yeast infections, and bladder infections. Several studies have identified significantly elevated rates of birth defects and adverse reproductive outcomes among GW veterans. However, findings have varied with different study designs and sample sizes, with some studies showing elevated risks of stillbirths, miscarriages, and/or birth defects and others have not. In some studies, participants reported increased risks of ectopic pregnancies and spontaneous abortions. Conclusion: Further research is needed to provide a comprehensive picture of the health of women GW veterans and to examine a broad range of women’s health issues including adverse reproductive outcomes. Some deployment-related health problems only become apparent decades later and other conditions may worsen or improve over time. Assessments are needed of current health status, changes in health symptoms and conditions over time, and possible differences in health outcomes associated with specific experiences and exposures during the war. Future studies would be strengthened by assessing GWI symptom patterns that may be specific to women veterans, examine diagnosed medical conditions among women veterans, and evaluate changes in women’s health over time, including changes potentially associated with menopause and age.

Last modified: 2017-12-16 19:08:02