Gulf War Syndrome News

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Chronic Pain in Gulf War Veterans Linked to Brain Structure Changes

Gulf War Veteran Brain Damage from High Res Imaging

Veterans with chronic pain show altered brain structures involved in pain processing

In a peer reviewed paper tfunded by Veterans Affairs; the brains of Gulf War Veterans with chronic pain have been found to possess larger pain processing regions and smaller pain regulation regions compared to their healthy peers, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Over one third of Gulf War Veterans experience widespread, chronic pain linked to a condition called Gulf War Illness. The underlying cause of the pain is poorly understood, preventing the development of effective treatments. Ninneman et al. analyzed the brains of Gulf War Veterans with and without pain using MRI. The participants also completed questionaries about their pain symptoms, fatigue, and mood.

Those with chronic pain displayed smaller left and right insular cortices, two brain areas involved in regulating pain. They also had larger areas of the frontal cortex, specifically in regions involved in pain sensitivity and emotional regulation. The structural changes were more pronounced in people with worse pain, but there was no relationship with fatigue or mood. These results indicate the chronic pain from Gulf War Illness may stem from changes in how the central nervous system processes pain, rather than with issues with nerves or pain receptors.

Acupuncture may relieve symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome according to ongoing research

Acupuncturist Inserting Needles​A Harvard Medical School clinical instructor is investigating the use of acupuncture as a means of symptom relief in sick Gulf War veterans, so far with promising results.

According to a report published in 2008 and produced by an investigation mandated by the US Congress, approximately one in four US veterans of the 1991 Gulf War subsequently suffered from a chronic multi-symptom illness commonly referred to as Gulf War syndrome or Gulf War illness. This equates to upwards of 150,000 individuals in the US alone. A similar rate for troops of allied nations would take the total much higher.

Like other chronic multi-system illnesses including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia, which share many symptoms with Gulf War syndrome, there are no cures or proven treatments. Dr. Lisa Conboy believes that the ancient Eastern healing art of acupuncture offers a means to at least provide sick veterans with relief from their symptoms, which she states include "fatigue, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, difficulty concentrating and emotional problems". 

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Studies find Gulf War Illness involves chronic altered brain blood flow while causes differ by deployment region

Geographical Map of IraqTwo important new studies recently published move knowledge of Gulf War Illness forward. The first finds altered blood flow to the brains of affected veterans while the second suggests the cause(s) of their illness vary depending on the region in which they were delpoyed.

The brain blood flow study was performed by researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and shows that abnormal blood flow has persisted in veterans for 20 years. Meanwhile, researchers from Baylor University, Waco, Texas, conclude that Gulf War Illness (GWI) resulted from several factors, which differed in importance depending upon a soldier's area of operation.

The studies provide further confirmation of what many veterans and researchers have long suspected - that GWI is a physical illness with measureable abnormalities (e.g. altered brain blood flow) and that it is complex with multiple triggers or causes, often compounding each other. It is ineresting to note that sufferers of similarly complex environmental illnesses including chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) also show significantly altered blood flow to the brain and their illnesses can also be initiated by a variety of factors.

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Genetic link in Gulf War Syndrome to be investigated

Tank Set Against Desert Sunset​A new study backed by US Department of Defense funding is to investigate a possible link between genetic instability and the development of Gulf War Syndrome among veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

It is thought under the extreme conditions of war the genomes of significant numbers of soldiers could become increasingly unstable. This would have far reaching consequences in terms of their health and may provide an explanation for the many and varied symptoms experienced by veterans affected by Gulf War Syndrome, now frequently referred to as Gulf War Illness (GWI).

Since shortly after returning from duty in the Gulf War almost two decades ago a large number of veterans have complained of a multitude of puzzling symptoms that include chronic fatigue, persistent headaches, cognitive impairment, neurological problems, respiratory distress, and chemical sensitivities. After much official denial of the existence of an unexplained physical illness related to service in the Gulf it was only in 2008 that a scientific panel from the US Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that almost a third of American troops who served were suffering from combinations of these symptoms, now recognised collectively as GWI.Other coilition governments have been equally unwilling to accept the existence of GWI.

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Immune cells of the brain linked to Gulf War Syndrome symptoms

Brain Scan​A new theory based on interactions between the immune system and the brain may provide an explanation for the symptoms experienced by veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome.

According to the theory special brain cells called 'microglia', which are actually a form of macrophage (white blood cell) and part of the body's first line immune defense, become sensitised and persistently release chemicals which affects the firing of neurons in the brain, causing chronic pain and other symptoms.

Following an announcement on February 26th made by the Veterans Affairs Department in the US, scientists from across the country were invited to Washington D.C. by the Federal Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veteran's Illnesses to present research related to the symptoms and illnesses suffered by veterans, collectively known as Gulf War Syndrome.

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