Gulf War Illness

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.


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Gulf War Illness

Symptoms - Aging  

Poor balance

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular  

Vision disturbances

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral  

Gums that bleed easily

Symptoms - Head - Nose  

Reduced sense of taste or smell

Symptoms - Metabolic  

Frequent/occasional unexplained fevers

Symptoms - Mind - General  

Trouble concentrating


Periods of confusion/disorientation


Short-term memory failure

Symptoms - Urinary  

Having blood in urine

Conditions that suggest Gulf War Illness






The Immune System  









Nervous System  

Organ Health  

Personal Background  

Absence of Gulf War Illness





Risk factors for Gulf War Illness



Lab Values - Chemistries  

Trace/significant amounts of occult blood or history of occult blood

Symptoms - Metabolic  

Recent unexplained weight loss

Symptoms - Mind - General  

Absence of short-term memory loss

Symptoms - Urinary  

History of having blood in urine

Gulf War Illness can lead to


The Immune System  


Nervous System  


Recommendations for Gulf War Illness



Some researchers have hypothesized that some of the veterans suffering from Gulf War illness are infected with a bacteria known as mycoplasma. A number of private physicians have reported success in alleviating Gulf War Illness symptoms using this treatment approach.


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Weakly counter-indicative
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
Likely to help

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