There are many theories as to the possible cause or combination of factors that have produced the Gulf War Illness (GWI) or Syndrome (GWS), none of which have yet been proven.
A significant proportion of U.S. military personnel who served in the Gulf War have reported various health problems following their service, some of which remain unexplained. Thousands of Gulf War veterans have experienced devastating and inexplicable ailments. Soldiers were exposed to a veritable witch's brew of known and potential health hazards. Of the 700,000 U.S. military personnel who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, between 100,000 and 300,000 have demonstrated a complex array of symptoms. Symptoms of GWI are all over the map. They include disabling fatigue, sleep problems, trouble with memory and concentration, pain, intestinal complaints, and other medical problems. Because different patients have different symptoms, the old name of the malady, Gulf War Syndrome -- was changed to Gulf War Illness.
A study by the State of Kansas has found that 34% of Gulf War veterans are affected by a pattern of symptoms linked to military service in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, and that the rate of illness differs by where and when veterans served during the war. Illness rates differed by where and when veterans served in the Gulf War. Overall, the lowest symptom rates were found in veterans who served in Desert Shield, but left the region before the air and ground wars began. Veterans who served on board ship also had lower rates of illness, on average. Highest rates were found in veterans who were in Iraq or Kuwait, 42% of whom reported Gulf War illness symptoms. According to Dr. Lea Steele, the epidemiologist who directed the study for the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs, “Differences in illness rates indicate that Gulf War-related health problems are not just randomly reported by all veterans, but are connected to different locations and experiences in the war."
There are several good sites on the Web offering information to veterans. One such site is the Gulf War Veteran Resource.