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Study Finds Deployment-Related Respiratory Symptoms In Returning Veterans

Update Date: Jul 01, 2014 11:16 AM EDT

A new study investigating the causes underlying respiratory symptoms in military personnel returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, found that a large percentage of veterans had non-specific symptoms that did not lead to a specific clinical diagnosis. 

The study further found that patients who did receive a diagnosis, had evidence of asthma or nonspecific airway hyperreactivity. These conditions may have been due in some cases to aggravation of pre-existing disease by deployment exposures, the study added. 

"Earlier studies of military personnel deployed in Southwest Asia have shown increases in non-specific respiratory symptoms related to exposure to increased levels of airborne particulate matter," said lead author Michael J. Morris, MD, of the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas in the press release. "Accordingly, we conducted a prospective study of 50 consecutive individuals returning from active duty in Iraq and/or Afghanistan with new onset pulmonary symptoms to assess possible causes."

"Evaluation of military personnel returning from duty in Southwest Asia with new onset respiratory symptoms should focus on airway hyperreactivity, although identifying an underlying cause and establishing a diagnosis may be difficult, and additional testing and follow-up may be necessary," added Dr. Morris. "Pre-existing underlying disease may play a role in respiratory symptoms in some patients, and mental health and sleep disorders, which were common in our sample, may also play a role in the occurrence of these symptoms."

The study has been published in the July 1 issue of the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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