TUESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Two decades after the
Persian Gulf War, some veterans continue to have blood flow
abnormalities in their brains that in some cases have even gotten
worse, a new study finds.
These problems are part of a debilitating disorder known as Gulf
War illness. Though somewhat mysterious even today, Gulf War
illness is believed to be caused by exposure to neurotoxins and
nerve gas. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' scientific
advisory committee estimates some 125,000 vets are afflicted by
Symptoms can include memory and concentration difficulties,
fatigue, neuropathic pain, balance problems and depression.
Researchers had initially identified the abnormalities in blood
flow in the brain's hippocampus -- the region associated with
spatial navigation and the formation of long-term memories -- in 35
Gulf War vets in 1998. At the time, the scientists looked at blood
flow using a specialized type of brain scan called single photon
emission computed tomography (SPECT).
Similar abnormalities in hippocampal blood flow cropped up again
11 years later, according to the study.
The study is published online in the journal
"We confirmed that abnormal blood flow continued or worsened over the 11-year span since first being diagnosed, which indicates that the damage is ongoing and lasts long term," said the study's principal investigator Dr. Robert W. Haley, chief of epidemiology in the departments of internal medicine and clinical sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in a Radiology Society of North American news release.
Researchers noted that their current investigation used an
innovative technique known as
arterial spin labeled MRI, or ASL, which "picks up brain
abnormalities too subtle for regular MRI to detect."
The novel technique, they said, better diagnoses and
distinguishes between the three main types of Gulf War illness,
each of which are characterized by somewhat different symptoms.
The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs provides more
Gulf War illnesses.