As we celebrate Veteran’s Day it’s important that we remember to respect the service and sacrifice provided by our veterans. Of equal importance is understanding how best to support them in their struggles and hardships. One way to go about supporting our veterans is to better understand the medical conditions that plague them because of their service.
This can prove to be difficult because not only are many conditions chronic and hard to treat, but they are also under-researched or not yet fully understood.
One such condition, which remains unsolved, is Gulf War Syndrome. This condition first appeared and was originally diagnosed in veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Studies suggest that roughly one-third of all Gulf War veterans suffer from chronic illnesses with multiple symptoms (Gulf War Syndrome), which equates to between 175,000 to 250,000 individuals.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs classifies conditions such as Gulf War Syndrome as “chronic multisymptom illnesses.” Conditions such as this have a negative impact on various systems in the body. This condition can cause a variety of symptoms including fatigue, mood swings, cognitive deficiency, joint and muscle pain, etc. When an individual is experiencing a number of disconnected symptoms, the VA may describe the individual as having an “undiagnosed illness” because there is no specific condition that encompasses all of their symptoms.
Research on the prevalence of Gulf War Syndrome, which gave data on what groups contracted the condition, was recently reviewed. This report showed that Gulf War veterans are about two and half times more likely than Iraq/Afghanistan War veterans to suffer from unexplained multisymptom illnesses. Rating the prevalence of these multisymptom illnesses showed that 26 to 65 percent of Gulf War veterans had a condition that fell into this category as opposed to a prevalence of 12 to 37 percent in Iraq/Afghanistan War veterans.
Although symptoms vary between individuals and there is no strict definition of the symptoms that accompany Gulf War Syndrome there are some common signifiers. Depression and anxiety are most often present in those that are suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, but a number of symptoms related to other chronic conditions may be present. The following conditions are commonly found in conjunction with, or contribute to Gulf War Syndrome.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What Causes Gulf War Syndrome?
The verdict is still out on what truly causes Gulf War Syndrome. Originally it was theorized that combat stress was the primary contributor. However, recent studies have found that, although it may play a part in the condition, combat stress is not the main source.
Additional information has arisen which suggests that exposure to toxic chemicals could be the main factor in contracting this illness. A 2008 article presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that exposure to chemicals such as organophosphates, commonly found in insecticides and nerve gases, and carbamate acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which can lead to reduced neurotransmission, played a role in contracting Gulf War Syndrome.
Another plausible contributor is anthrax vaccination. Early versions of this vaccine was found to bring on various side effects congruent with Gulf War Syndrome. During the period of the Gulf War, anthrax vaccines were commonly administered to military personnel. Research is still being conducted on what the definitive cause of Gulf War Syndrome is but there are a number of avenues to explore fully such as exposure to toxins, impacts of chemical and biological agents, and long-term effects of blast exposures.
It can be difficult to find proper treatment for this condition because it is still relatively unrecognized and little is known in regards to treatment options.
Because Gulf War Syndrome does impact so many systems within the body it is unsurprising that it comes with such a variety and range of symptoms such as:
- Abnormal Weight Loss
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Menstrual Disorders
- Muscle and Joint Pain
- Neurological Issues
- Psychological Issues
- Respiratory Disorders
- Skin Conditions
- Sleep Disturbances
This may seem like an impressive list of issues for one condition. However, much like thyroid conditions, it can impact various systems of the body and it is important to respond to this illness with a multi-system approach of treatment in order to attain the best results.
Some of those looking for relief of Gulf War Syndrome have found success in utilizing therapy that includes Ozone IV’s, Ozone UVI, and various bio-identical hormones. These treatments can significantly reduce muscle and joint pain. Doing this can relieve a portion of the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome that commonly accompany Gulf War Syndrome.
Patients have also stated that, with the assistance of a physician, re-balancing their thyroid through hormone therapy and utilizing supplements to bring their vitamin and mineral levels to a healthy equilibrium has had an impressive positive impact on their condition.
Supporting Those Who Supported Us
Thankfully, research is moving forward and there are doctors and physicians that are able and willing to treat the variety of conditions that accompany this multifaceted illness. So remember on this Veteran’s day to not only pay your respects and thank a veteran but also help fight for those that have fought for us. By spreading awareness and being educated on conditions such as Gulf War Syndrome that hinder the health and happiness of our treasured veterans we can show how much care we have and how proud we are of them and their service.