Friday, August 20, 2010

CPAP Helps Vets with Gulf War Syndrome, Breathing Problems

A machine and a mask go a long way towards improving the lives of the men and women who fought for their country during the first Gulf War. A small pilot study suggests CPAP can reduce the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome and sleep-disordered breathing for veterans.

The study, published Friday in Sleep and Breathing, involved a small sample of Gulf War veterans with sleep disordered breathing and gulf war syndrome. Eight veterans were prescribed three weeks of therapeutic CPAP in the double-blind study. Nine others used a fake, non-functional version of CPAP. Before and after treatment, each participant answered questionnaires about pain, fatigue, cognitive function, sleep disturbance and general health.

All of the veterans who received therapeutic CPAP reported significant improvements across the board compared to the control group. More in-depth research with larger samples is needed before clinicians can recommend CPAP for Gulf War Syndrome. Currently there is no treatment.
The Institute of Medicine reports more than one-third of the 700,000 Gulf War vets complain of symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome. The symptoms vary from gastrointestinal illness, confusion and numbness, to vertigo, mood swings, fatigue and chronic pain.

The cause of Gulf War Syndrome is still officially unknown. The common belief is exposure to airborne environmental hazards associated with the war including toxic chemicals and dust led to many of the cases. It remains a mystery why some troops developed the chronic illness after only a short tour of duty while others who served for years in the field remained healthy. It’s suspected that some troops were genetically predisposed to Gulf War Syndrome.

Another recent study shows another group of American heroes also have an elevated rate of sleep-disordered breathing. The rescue workers who rushed to the wreckage of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 sacrificed their own health to save lives during the country’s darkest hours.

CPAP is the front-line treatment for sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing. Whether you are a veteran, rescue worker or civilian you may discover more restful sleep and improve their overall quality of life by seeking treatment at an AASM-accredited sleep center.

Photo courtesy U.S. Army Korea

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