Institute of Medicine study led by UCSF's Hauser links Gulf War to health problems

By Jennifer O'Brien

A new report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has found that military service in the Persian Gulf War is a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder in some veterans.

The study also found Gulf War service to be associated with multi-symptomatic illness, gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse – particularly alcoholism – and psychiatric problems such as anxiety disorder.

The April 9 report is the latest update in a series issued by the IOM on the Gulf War and veterans’ health and was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The IOM committee that conducted the study was chaired by Stephen L. Hauser, MD, the Robert A. Fishman Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at UCSF.

“It is clear that a significant portion of the soldiers deployed to the Gulf War have experienced troubling constellations of symptoms that are difficult to categorize,” Hauser said. “Unfortunately, symptoms that cannot be easily quantified are sometimes incorrectly dismissed as insignificant and receive inadequate attention and funding by the medical and scientific establishment.

“Veterans who continue to suffer from these symptoms deserve the very best that modern science and medicine can offer to speed the development of effective treatments, cures, and – we hope – prevention,” he added. “Our report suggests a path forward to accomplish this goal, and we believe that through a concerted national effort and rigorous scientific input, answers can be found.”

The report also found some evidence linking service during the conflict to fibromyalgia and chronic widespread pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sexual difficulties and death due to causes such as car accidents in the early years after deployment, but those data are limited.

The Institute of Medicine, established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector and the public. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council make up the National Academies.

National Academies News Release:

IOM Report on Gulf War Veterans’ Health:

Media coverage:

Reuters: (HealthDay story):

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