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Veterans with Gulf War Illness perceptions of management strategies.

Winograd DM, Sullivan NL, Thien SR, Pigeon WR, Litke DR, Helmer DA, Rath JF, Lu SE, McAndrew LM. Veterans with Gulf War Illness perceptions of management strategies. Life sciences. 2021 Aug 15; 279:119219.

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AIMS: Gulf War Illness (GWI) is a prevalent and disabling condition characterized by persistent physical symptoms. Clinical practice guidelines recommend self-management to reduce the disability from GWI. This study evaluated which GWI self-management strategies patients currently utilize and view as most effective and ineffective. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data were collected from 267 Veterans during the baseline assessment of a randomized clinical trial for GWI. Respondents answered 3 open-ended questions regarding which self-management strategies they use, view as effective, and view as ineffective. Response themes were coded, and code frequencies were analyzed. KEY FINDINGS: Response frequencies varied across questions (in-use: n  =  578; effective: n  =  470; ineffective: n  =  297). Healthcare use was the most commonly used management strategy (38.6% of 578), followed by lifestyle changes (28.5% of 578), positive coping (13% of 578), and avoidance (13.7% of 578). When asked about effective strategies, healthcare use (25.9% of 470), lifestyle change (35.7% of 470), and positive coping (17.4% of 470) were identified. Avoidance was frequently identified as ineffective (20.2% of 297 codes), as was invalidating experiences (14.1% of 297) and negative coping (10.4% of 297). SIGNIFICANCE: Patients with GWI use a variety of self-management strategies, many of which are consistent with clinical practice guidelines for treating GWI, including lifestyle change and non-pharmacological strategies. This suggests opportunities for providers to encourage effective self-management approaches that patients want to use.

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