Healthcare News & Insights

Researchers claim gulf war syndrome caused by sarin gas

A new study indicates that there is a medical cause for the complaints of vets who say they have Gulf War Syndrome.

For years, federal and military groups, as well as some medical experts, have said the disease was actually a psychological issue, causing physical symptoms like chronic pain, depression, poor memory and inability to concentrate.

But researchers at UT Southwestern say their work proves the symptoms are caused by chronic exposure to tiny doses of sarin gas, a nerve agent, during the war.

The researchers used a special MRI to measure blood flow in the brain. They found that veterans who said they suffered from Gulf War Syndrome had abnormalities in the blood flow in their brain that indicated damage to a specific type of nerve receptor cell.

The researchers also noted that roughly 20% of the population has a weak form of the gene that protects people from nerve damage from sarin and similar gases. That lines up with the roughly 25% of veterans who served in Iraq during the Gulf War and claim to have the syndrome.

The study was published in Radiology.

The study authors noted that more research is needed to understand how patients with the syndrome can be treated.

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