Veterans Try To Educate Providers on Gulf War Illnesses


By Debbie Gregory.

Servicemembers who deployed for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield suffer from an amalgam of chronic, unexplained illnesses including fibromyalgia, fatigue and gastrointestinal disorders, called, for lack of a better name, Gulf War Illness (GWI.)

Gulf War veterans may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including a Gulf War Registry health exam, the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, health care, and disability compensation for diseases related to military service. Their dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.

Unfortunately, when a veteran has symptoms suggestive of GWI, the type of care they get may depend on the type of doctor they see.  General internal medicine doctors are more likely to believe the syndrome is caused by mental illness.  Many physicians don’t even seem to know what GWI is.

This led Shawn Scott to his present cause. Scott suffers from many medical conditions linked to his service. He is on a quest to bridge the information gap. To that end, the Army veteran organized a Gulf War Illness Awareness Conference at his local VA hospital in Tampa, FL.

He has also been a part of  a research study conducted by Nancy Klimas and James Baranuiuk, who have made breakthrough discoveries about Gulf War service and GWI.

After Klimas spoke about the GWI clinical trials she’s working on, veterans in attendance at the conference flooded her table with interest.

Although more evidence might not lead to a cure, Klimas is none the less working toward one. At the very least, it could lead to a better understanding and improved treatment for veterans’ symptoms.

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Doctor Receives $715,000 Grant to Study of Gulf War Illness


By Debbie Gregory.

A prominent condition affecting Gulf War Veterans is a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems.

Now, a Peoria-based medical school professor has received $715,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense to investigate what might have caused Gulf War Illness.

Dr. Stephen Lasley is looking into how battlefield stress, pesticides and anti-nerve gas drugs have contributed to neurological disorders Gulf War veterans, with the goal of finding treatments that will relieve the suffering or reverse the illness.

“We are to the point now where treatments that we want to apply are less shots in the dark and more based upon research findings. We would like to be able to help the Gulf War veterans who have suffered for more than 25 years now,” Lasley said.

Some of the diagnosed conditions of Gulf War Illness include: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a condition of long-term and severe fatigue that is not relieved by rest; Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread muscle pain; gastrointestinal disorders including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.

More than 700,000 troops were deployed in the Gulf War, and the Department of Defense estimates that as many as 200,000 veterans of that conflict might be affected.

Gulf War veterans do not need to prove a connection between their military service and illnesses in order to receive VA disability compensation if the illness is at least 10 percent disabling, and appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, or by December 31, 2016.

Lasley hopes his research will show that existing drugs can provide relief, allowing quick routes to treatment options.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: An Alternative Treatment for TBI

brain injuryBy Debbie Gregory.

There are no approved therapies for traumatic brain injury (TBI) despite an incidence of over 1 million cases per year, in both the civilian and military arenas. Injuries to the brain caused by explosions or exposure to pesticides (or other neurotoxins) may now be able to be treated with light therapy.

Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare system are testing the effects of this new therapy on brain function in veterans with Gulf War Illness.

Veterans participating in the study wear a helmet that is lined with light-emitting diodes that apply red and near-infra-red light to the scalp. They also have diodes placed in their nostrils to help deliver photons to the deeper parts of the brain.

Transcranial application of near-infrared laser or LED light is non-invasive, inexpensive and without side-effects. As a painless 30-minute treatment that generates no heat, the LED therapy increases blood flow in the brain, as shown on MRI scans. It also appears to have an effect on damaged brain cells, specifically on their mitochondria. These are bean-shaped subunits within the cell that put out energy in the form of a chemical known as ATP.

However, as this therapy is still considered “investigational” it is not covered by most health insurance plans, but is already being used by some alternative medicine practitioners to treat wounds and pain.

Leading the investigation is Dr. Margaret Naeser, a research linguist and speech pathologist for the Boston VA, and a research professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). She is also a licensed acupuncturist and has conducted past research on laser acupuncture to treat paralysis in stroke, and pain in carpal tunnel syndrome.

She believes the light therapy can be a valuable adjunct to standard cognitive rehabilitation, which typically involves “exercising” the brain in various ways to take advantage of brain plasticity and forge new neural networks.

While the LED approach has its skeptics, Naeser’s group has already published encouraging results in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Dr. Naeser hopes the work will validate LED therapy as a viable treatment for veterans and others with brain difficulties. She foresees potential not only for war injuries, but also for conditions such as depression, stroke, dementia, and even autism.

“There are going to be many applications, I think. We’re just in the beginning stages right now.”

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Military Connection: An Alternative Treatment for TBI : By Debbie Gregory