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Gulf War Syndrome Is Real, But Causes Unclear: Report
Date:4/9/2010

IOM panel believes genetic studies may reveal why soldiers from 1991 conflict suffer today

FRIDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- The cluster of symptoms experienced by some veterans of the 1991 Gulf War is a real disease, but its causes, treatment and potential cure remain unknown, concludes a new report from U.S. experts at the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

However, newer medical technology, including the ability examine genetic mutations, may hold the key to finally unraveling the mystery of an illness that has plagued one-third of Gulf War veterans for two decades, the experts said.

The panel "identified chronic multi-symptom illnesses, sometimes referred to as Gulf War illness, as a group of illnesses that is clearly associated with deployment," said report committee chair Dr. Stephen L. Hauser, professor and chair of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

According to the report, released April 9, service in the Gulf War has long been linked with gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, as well as substance abuse, particularly alcoholism, and psychiatric problems such as anxiety disorder.

In addition, service during the Gulf War is associated with fibromyalgia and chronic widespread pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (the neurological disorder also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease") and sexual difficulties.

However, more research is needed to understand the biological underpinnings of these illnesses, Hauser said. That information is vital to developing better treatments, cures and "one day to prevent this from happening in the future," he added.

In 2008, a Congressionally mandated report from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses did point to wartime exposures to "certain chemicals," including pesticides and a drug used to shield soldiers against nerve gas, as the likely cause of veterans' sympto
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