More Than Combat Cough

Lung disease facing our servicemen

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Our military soldiers are bringing home more than honor and dignity after their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A new respiratory disease called Iraq-Afghanistan War lung injury (IAW-LI) is cropping up among servicemen who have served as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.

"American soldiers serving in the Mideast have 7 times more likelihood of having respiratory and lung issues."

Anthony Szema, MD explains that  soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer serious respiratory problems at an alarming rate: Seven times that of soldiers deployed elsewhere.

Szema continued to explain that these respiratory issues the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan present are a unique pattern of fixed obstruction in half of cases.

The remaining cases are clinically-reversible new-onset asthma or a rare interstitial lung disease called nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis which is associated with exposure to titanium and iron.

Cecile S. Rose, MD, MPH, who is professor at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado in Denver added that researchers are at a bit of a disadvantage getting to the bottom of this new disease as there is so little pre-deployment data about the lung function of these soldiers.

This lack of data will make it almost impossible to determine the damage caused by these elements soldiers are exposed to in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans exposure to elements which can lead to potential respiratory damage include outdoor aeroallergens, indoor aeroallergens, blast overpressure, aerosolized metals and chemicals from improvised explosive devices and sand dust.

In addition to the obvious exposures, there are additional possible exposures including constrictive bronchiolitis, acute eosinophilic pneumonia and rhinosinusitis, desert dusts, burn pits, vehicle exhaust and smoke from cigars and cigarettes.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 18, 2011
Last Updated:
May 22, 2011