Research Suggests Gulf War Illness May Come in Two Forms

Gulf War illnesses are those associated with military service from August 2, 1990 through the Iraqi conflict. They are connected to operations in Southwest Asia in which veterans were exposed to pesticides, vaccinations, oil well fires, smoke and petroleum.

They consist of medically unexplained chronic symptoms such as:

· respiratory disorders;

· joint pain;

· gastrointestinal problems;

· memory difficulties;

· fatigue;

· dizziness;

· headaches;

· insomnia; and

· indigestion.

Two Forms of Gulf War Illness?

New research from Georgetown University Medical Center indicates there could be two different forms of illness. A small study involving 28 vets diagnosed with Gulf War illness underwent brain scans before and after exercise stress tests.

Before the exercise stress test, evidence of increased use of basal ganglia was seen in 18 vets. This is the area of the brain used for mental skills tasks. This increase is also seen with those who have degenerative brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s. Pain levels increased after the test in this same group of vets. But the scans also revealed that in the areas of the brain that regulate pain, there was a loss of matter.

For the other 10 vets, the results were different. Before the test there was increased use of the brain’s cerebellum (also commonly seen in those with degenerative brain disorders). After the stress test, there was evidence of deterioration in the brain stem, along with increased heart rate.

In general, Gulf War illness appears to show dysfunction in the central nervous system. But the different results between the two groups suggests there could be two forms of this illness. Researchers do point out that it doesn’t necessarily mean these vets are at risk of developing a brain disorder.

If Gulf War illness or any other medical condition connected to military service is debilitating, veterans’ disability benefits could be available. Contact the Law Offices of Veterans Help Group to learn about options.