Researchers: More study needed on ill Gulf War veterans

April 15, 2010

Researchers still struggle with lingering questions about the multitude of symptoms experienced by ill veterans of the Persian Gulf War nearly 20 years after its conclusion.

According to the latest update in a series of reports by the Washington-based Institute of Medicine, more than 250,000 of the 700,000 soldiers deployed to the region in the early '90s suffer from persistent and unexplained symptoms. Service during the conflict has been associated with gastrointestinal disorders, substance abuse and anxiety disorders. Evidence also links service to chronic widespread pain, Lou Gehrig's disease and sexual problems.

Complicating the matter is that some veterans experience a wide range of symptoms, while others have specific problems or no ill health. Additionally, some veterans not exposed to combat have multisymptom illnesses, while others who fought during the height of the war have no or few symptoms.

The report suggested researchers undertake a "substantial" commitment to identify and treat the multisymptom illness veterans, including monitoring and undertaking studies that include genetic predisposition.