Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may be suffering from Gulf War illness, study says

Posted at 2:38 PM, Jan 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-23 14:38:23-05

A new report released Wednesday by the federal Institute of Medicine says veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from the 20-year-old set of symptoms known as Gulf War Illness.

The group of symptoms formerly known as Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome is now called Chronic Multisymptom Illness by doctors. The report is the first time symptoms reported by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have been documented in those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The illness includes symptoms in at least two of six categories: fatigue, mood and cognition issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties and neurologic issues that last for at least six months, according to USAToday.

“Based on the voluminous evidence we reviewed, our committee cannot recommend using one universal therapy to manage the health of veterans with chronic multisymptom illness, and we reject a ‘one size fits all’ treatment approach,” said committee chair Bernard M. Rosof, chairman of the board of directors at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y., in a statement. “Instead, we endorse individualized health care management plans as the best approach for treating this very real, highly diverse condition.”

Researchers also said there may be no specific cause for the illness.

“Despite considerable efforts by researchers in the United States and elsewhere, there is no consensus among physicians, researchers and others as to the cause of CMI,” the report states. “There is a growing belief that no specific causal factor or agent will be identified.”

Patient advocates for those with the illness disagree, pointing to several studies

A large-scale study done by Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, showed veterans have damage to their autonomic nervous system caused by exposure to nerve agents after the U.S. Air Force bombed a chemical factory….

For current war veterans, scientists have connected chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and bronchiolitis to exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan, including to garbage pits that burned as much as 240 tons of waste in an open pit a day, as well as to dust proved to be laden with bacteria and heavy metals.

Read more at USAToday.