Gulf War Illness is a multi-symptom condition that has existed for six months or more resulting from military service in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. This complex of multiple, concurrent symptoms typically includes persistent memory and concentration problems, cognitive difficulties, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, unexplained fatigue, chronic diarrhea, skin disorders, fibromyalgia, neurological symptoms, and menstrual disorders.
Gulf War Illness is also associated with diverse biological alterations that prominently affect the brain and nervous system, including significant changes in brain structure and function, autonomic nervous system function, and neuro-endocrine and immune measures. In addition, an association with Gulf War Illness and low-level exposure to nerve agents, oil well fires, receipt of multiple vaccines, and the effects of combinations of Gulf War exposures cannot be ruled out.
Evidence strongly and consistently indicates that two Gulf War neurotoxic exposures are causally linked with Gulf War Illness: 1) the use of pyridostigmine bromide (BP) pills to protect troops from the effects of nerve agents; and 2) pesticide use during deployment. In addition, studies indicate that Gulf War veterans have significantly higher rates of ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (i.e., Lou Gehrig’s disease) than other veterans and that Gulf War veterans potentially exposed to nerve agents have died from brain cancer at elevated rates.