Rheumatic symptoms were commonly described among soldiers who served in previous wars.
To describe the frequency of rheumatology consultations, along with the diagnoses, and abnormal results on serologic testing in Gulf War veterans evaluated for Gulf War syndrome.
The medical records of the first 250 consecutive Gulf War veterans referred to the comprehensive clinical evaluation program at Wilford Hall Air Force Medical Center and Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Tex, were reviewed for demographic characteristics and frequency of subspecialty consultations. A retrospective review of rheumatic diagnoses and the frequency of abnormal serologic test results was recorded.
Of the 250 Gulf War veterans evaluated in the comprehensive clinical evaluation program, 139 (56%) were referred for rheumatology consultation, which was the most common elective subspecialty referral. Of the patients evaluated, 82 (59%) had soft tissue syndromes, 19 (14%) had rheumatic disease, and 38 (27%) had no rheumatic disease. The most common soft tissue syndromes were patellofemoral syndrome (33 patients ), mechanical low back pain (23 patients ), and fibromyalgia (22 patients ). Of the 19 patients with rheumatic disease, 10 had osteoarthritis, 2 had rheumatoid arthritis, 2 had gout, and 1 each had systemic lupus erythematosus, Behçet disease, parvovirus arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and hypothyroid arthropathy. Abnormal serologic test results were common among the Gulf War patients regardless of the presence or absence of rheumatic disease.
The rheumatic manifestations in Gulf War veterans are similar to symptoms and diagnoses described in previous wars and are not unique to active duty soldiers. Overall, the results of serologic screening were poor predictors of the presence of rheumatic disease.