Gulf War veterans’ disease can be linked to central nervous system diseases such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, according to three Georgetown researchers who presented findings at a two-day conference last week.

This discovery marks a important step in understanding Gulf War veterans’ disease, characterized by fatigue, pain and cognitive problems. Before this research, doctors had little information on the cause of the disease and thus little hope for a diagnosis.

Dr. Daniel Clauw, Timothy Gerrity, Ph.D. and David Williams, Ph.D., each explained their research results indicating a correlation between Gulf War veterans’ disease and problems with the central nervous system.

Clauw, a co-director with Gerrity of Georgetown’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, presented the results of his study, which found that symptoms suffered by 1007 Gulf War veterans were similar to symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are illnesses often diagnosed in conjunction with each other because they both originate from the central nervous system.

Gerrity’s research provided more detailed medical facts to associate Gulf War veterans’ disease illness with fibromyolgia. Gerrity used 99 participants, separating them into three groups – veterans complaining of symptoms, fibromyalgia patients and a control group – and compared changes in their heart rate. He found the heart rate variability between fibromyalgia patients and Gulf War veterans were similar. Both groups suffered from low heart rate variability, indicating their bodies were not adequately responding to external conditions and causes of stress.

Williams found the use of cognitive behavioral therapy coupled with standard medical care provided a 48 percent greater treatment success rate than just medical care alone. The six-group therapy sessions he administered focused on relaxation skills, goal setting and gradual intensity of exercise.

Held at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., the “Conference on Illnesses among Gulf War Veterans: A Decade of Scientific Research” was open to anyone interested or concerned with the illness.

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