There's no denying it now: Gulf War Syndrome, characterized by memory loss, lack of concentration, neuropathic pain and depression, is a physiological illness, not a psychological one.
The findings mark a significant advancement in our understanding of the syndrome, which was for years written off by the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs as a form of combat stress rather than an objectively diagnosable injury. Dr. Robert Haley, chief epidemiologist at UT Southwestern, and a cadre of clinicians and researchers, have struggled with the government for some 18 years for research funding and to have the syndrome recognized as a legitimate war injury caused by chronic exposure to minimal amounts of sarin gas.
Because of Haley's work, we now know brain damage is involved. But which specific brain cells, and what's wrong with them? Until we understand the underlying pathology, Haley says, we can't treat them. "We're shooting in the dark," he said, referring to potential treatments. "So far, nobody's guessed right.
"But the research is really going to come to a head in the next six to 12 months."