Gulf War Syndrome

The Gulf War Syndrome is a seemingly chronic multi-symptom disorder, affecting military personnel and civilian workers who returned from the Gulf War, otherwise known as Operation Desert Shield (August 1990 – February 1991).

A prominent condition affecting these Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained and seemingly unrelated chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, rashes, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders and memory problems.

Normally, any medical or psychological syndrome needs a fixed set of symptoms to enable doctors or psychiatrists to start some sort of treatment that has been proven helpful. The problem with the Gulf War Syndrome is that almost no single veteran has the same set of symptoms.
Still, approximately 250,000 out of the 697,000 U.S.-veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted a condition with serious consequences. From 1995 to 2005, the health of combat veterans even worsened in comparison with non-deployed veterans, with the onset of more new chronic diseases, functional impairment, repeated clinic visits and hospitalizations, chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness, posttraumatic stress disorder, and greater persistence of adverse health incidents. 

A wide array of possible causes have been mentioned, which included depleted uranium, sarin gas, toxic smoke from burning oil wells, pesticides, regulary vaccinations, combat stress and psychological factors. While most of these factors have been medically disproven, the most likely cause seem to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder[1] or some type of collective obsessional behavior. Maybe it's even the result of putting too inexperienced young soldiers into combat operations too soon.

The Gulf War Syndrome shares some interesting features with the Aerotoxic Syndrome and the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

[1]  Stencel: Gulf War Service Linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multisymptom Illness, Other Health Problems, But Causes Are Unclear in National Academy of Sciences – 2010

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