Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com
(91outcomes.com) - A new scientific study published in the August 19, 2010 edition of the medical journal Sleep and Breathing shows that a machine can help relieve sleep and other symptoms in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffering from Gulf War Illness.
The machine, called a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), is connected by the patient while sleeping to a tube connected to the nasal passageways, or sometimes using a slightly larger face mask that also covers the mouth.
In the study, sleep and other GWI symptoms showed great improvement.
Previous studies have found conditions related to disturbed sleep in Gulf War veterans suffering from Gulf War illness, including apneas and hypopneas, pauses in breathing and insufficient oxygen inhalation during breathing while sleeping.
This latest study suggests a possible treatment that might help alleviate some of Gulf War veterans’ symptoms.
For many years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) focused its studies related to Gulf War veterans’ illnesses almost exclusively on stress. Under continuous pressure from ill Gulf War veterans, including through Congress hearings, a new research focus aimed at treatments and improving the health and lives of Gulf War veterans was begun in 2006.
Predictably since that new focus, scientific study results from a number of fields, including neurology, sleep medicine, rheumatology, gastroenterology, and others have begun unraveling the so-called “mysteries” of Gulf War illness.
Studies like this one may provide real benefit for ill Gulf War veterans.
CPAP machines are available through VA sleep clinics at VA medical centers. The newest CPAP machines can also serve as a form of diagnosis by monitoring and recording the time, duration, and nature of sleep disturbance episodes.
The study’s abstract is below for those more scientifically minded.
The effect of nasal continuous positive airway pressure on the symptoms of Gulf War illness
We performed a pilot study to determine whether nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) alleviates the symptoms of veterans with Gulf War illness (GWI) and sleep disordered breathing (SDB).
Eighteen male veterans with GWI and SDB recruited by advertisement, participated in a randomized, single-masked, sham-controlled treatment trial. Participants received 3 weeks of treatment during sleep with either therapeutic nasal CPAP or sham nasal CPAP. Using validated questionnaires, pain, fatigue, cognitive function, sleep disturbance, and general health were assessed by self-report before and after treatment. One of the participants assigned to therapeutic CPAP was excluded from the trial before starting treatment, leaving 17 participants.
Compared to the nine sham nasal CPAP recipients, the eight participants receiving therapeutic nasal CPAP experienced improvements in pain (34%; p = 0.0008), fatigue (38%; p = 0.0002), cognitive function (33%; p = 0.004), sleep quality (41%; p = 0.0003), physical health (34%; p = 0.0003), and mental health (16%; p = 0.03).
Our findings in this pilot study suggest that nasal CPAP may greatly improve symptoms in veterans with GWI and SDB.
Keywords Gulf war illness - Functional somatic syndromes - Nasal continuous positive airway pressure - Sleep disordered breathing - Sleep stage shifts