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Agent Orange Exposure Symptoms

By Patience Lister ; Updated July 27, 2017

Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used by the U.S. military as a warfare tactic during the Vietnam War. It was sprayed from planes, boats, vehicles and hand-held tanks to thin out the jungle canopy and make it easier to identify enemy forces. One of the spray’s ingredients, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, resulted in a number of negative health consequences for those who were exposed to it. Symptoms of exposure vary depending on how the exposed is affected.


A variety of cancers are associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. Respiratory cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcoma and prostate cancer can all result. Symptoms of respiratory cancers such as lung, larynx or trachea cancers include difficulty breathing, persistent colds, coughing up blood and voice changes. Symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia include fatigue, weight loss, bone pain and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma include swollen lumps that become painful as the tumor grows, while people with prostate cancer may experience urinary problems, blood in the urine and soreness in the pelvic area.

Ischemic Heart Disease

Ischemic heart disease can be a result of exposure to Agent Orange. It can cause a build-up of arterial plaque, which leads to reduced blood circulation and delivery of oxygen to the heart. Symptoms of ischemic heart disease include chest, neck and arm pain, as well as dizziness and heartburn.

AL Amyloidosis

The disease AL amyloidosis is associated with exposure to Agent Orange. It can also be a side effect of cancer when the protein amyloid infects specific body organs and tissues. Symptoms include weakness, exhaustion, numbness and shortness of breath.

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Porphyria cutanea tarda is a skin disorder that is linked to exposure to Agent Orange. Symptoms of the disorder include liver damage, hyperpigmentation and increased sensitivity to UV light. Exposure to the sun can result in blisters and increased hair growth.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Agent Orange exposure can cause damage to the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms of acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy are apparent within a few weeks of exposure. These include tingling or burning in the feet and hands, as well as muscle weakness and balance problems.


Chloracne is a long-term disorder that occurs in some people after they are exposed to Agent Orange. Similar to acne, symptoms of chloracne range from oily skin and cysts to thickening skin and open sores. In severe cases, chloracne can last for multiple years.

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