Friday, October 29, 2010

Gulf War Ills May Be Clue to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Tuesday January 30 8:17 PM ET
Gulf War Ills May Be Clue to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By John Schieszer

SEATTLE (Reuters Health) - Important similarities exist between Gulf
War (news - web sites) illness and
chronic fatigue syndrome, and those similarities may help unlock some
of the mysteries behind these enigmatic
illnesses, experts on the syndrome said at a conference here.

``The symptoms of both are very similar,'' said Dr. Lea Steele, who is
with the Persian Gulf War Veterans
Health Initiative. ``I think they both encompass different disease
pathways, and so some of those disease
pathways may overlap in Gulf War veterans and civilian patients with
chronic fatigue syndrome.''

In an interview with Reuters Health, Steele said that looking into the
differences and similarities between these
two illnesses may lead to new treatments for both conditions.
Furthermore, veterans with Gulf War illness will
probably find they are better accepted and their symptoms better
managed by physicians who are also treating
chronic fatigue syndrome patients.

``The chronic fatigue syndrome doctors are the ones with probably the
most expertise in dealing with the
symptoms,'' explained Steele, who presented her findings at the
American Association for Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome (AACFS) 5th International Conference.

Gulf War illness is defined as an elevated level of symptoms in at
least 3 of 6 defined symptom domains
(fatigue/sleep problems, pain, neuro/cognitive/mood symptoms,
gastrointestinal symptoms, respiratory
symptoms, and skin symptoms), in the absence of other conditions that
could account for those symptoms.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms bear some similarity to those
associated with Gulf War illness and
earlier research has suggested that some Gulf War veterans actually had
chronic fatigue syndrome and not a
new illness, Steele noted.

``What my study found was that although there is definitely some
symptomatic overlap between the two
conditions, Gulf War veterans are actually distinct from chronic
fatigue syndrome patients. They have some of
the symptoms but Gulf veterans are more likely to report neurologic
symptoms, and they are more likely to
report more gastrointestinal problems and more likely to report skin
and rash conditions,'' Steele said.

She conducted her study among 1,548 veterans of the Persian Gulf War.
Chronic fatigue syndrome was found
in 7% of Persian Gulf veterans. However, the specific pattern of
symptoms reported by veterans who met
criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome differed from that reported by
chronic fatigue syndrome patients in the
general population.

For example, chronic headache, diarrhea, skin rashes and night sweats
were more prominent among Gulf War
veterans meeting CFS criteria than in CFS patients generally.

``Ultimately, this will increase interest in this area,'' said Dr.
Leonard Jason, who is a professor of clinical
psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. ``Groups of
activists are now going to Congress saying we
need to have services for people with Gulf War illness and the Veterans
Administration will do that work. And
clearly then that sets up the foundation for those people who didn't go
to war and are also sick.''

Currently, there are no approved treatments for either of these
conditions and physicians are only able to
provide symptomatic relief. The causes of both illnesses are still
considered a mystery.

CFS is marked by unrelenting exhaustion, muscle pain, cognitive
disorders that patients call ``brain fog,'' and a
myriad of other physical symptoms. It is believed that about 800,000
Americans have CFS, the majority of
them women. Steele says most patients with both of these illnesses are
not receiving proper care.

``It is true. A lot of chronic fatigue syndrome and Gulf War illness
patients have a hard time finding a doctor
who knows how to help them very much,'' Steele said. ``It used to be
that they even had a hard time finding a
doctor who really believed they were really sick and not just having
some kind of mental disorder.''


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