Written by Lourdes Salvador
(California Chronicle) - After nearly 20 years of having their poor health dismissed as "post traumatic stress", Gulf War Veterans finally have a way to show the legitimacy of their illness, Gulf War Syndrome.
Gulf War Syndrome is a complex bunch of symptoms that are seemingly unrelated. Pain, numbness, tingling, fatigue, brain fog, chemical sensitivity, emotional changes, and other subjective symptoms make up the syndrome.
In recent years, toxic exposures during deployment have been linked to Gulf War Syndrome.
At the annual Society of Toxicology meeting, functional MRI brain scans were presented which clearly identify physical differences in the brains of Gulf War Syndrome victims when compared to healthy counterparts. Further, they can identify three distinct forms of Gulf War Syndrome.
Each form of Gulf War Syndrome is linked to a different toxic agent. The agents are Sarin nerve gas, pyridostigmine bromide (a nerve gas antidote), and pesticides. Each of these agents produces a consistent physical change in basal ganglia of the brain that is believed to lead to neuron die off.
The brain must find alternate routes around the damage, leading to decreased brain function and symptoms related to the loss of function in the damaged part of the brain.
The basal ganglia controls cognition and coordination. Damage to the basal ganglia may lead to problems with speech, motor control, and memory. Symptoms may include difficulty walking, poor memory, tremor, tics, and repetitive movements.
Other conditions related to the basal ganglia include Huntington disease, Tourettes syndrome, and Wilson diseases.
Other findings include altered blood flow to the brain and damage to the myelin sheath similar to that seen is multiple sclerosis.
While this information will likely lead to diagnostic tests to enable doctors to definitively diagnose Gulf War Syndrome, an appropriate treatment or cure has yet to be discovered.
Lourdes Salvador is the founder of MCS America, a science writer, and a social advocate for the greater awareness of environmental contamination, human toxicology, and propagation of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as a disorder of organic biological origin induced by toxic environmental insults.