Is It Fibromyalgia or Gulf War Syndrome?

Similarities and Differences Between Fibromyalgia and Gulf War Syndrome

Gulf War syndrome (GWS), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and multiple chemical sensitivities syndrome occur commonly in the same groups of people and they have overlapping symptoms. Due to their similarities, some researchers think these syndromes, and perhaps also irritable bowel syndrome, may be subsets of the same condition.


Symptoms include longstanding (more than three to six months) of chronic widespread muscle or joint pain, extreme fatigue, trouble sleeping, headaches and problems with memory and thinking. People with these syndromes are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Diagnosis may depend on the most prominent symptom present (fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome or pain in fibromyalgia) and which medical specialist diagnoses it (a rheumatologist is more likely to diagnose fibromyalgia). If not the same condition, there may be a similar underlying mechanism.


The cause of these syndromes remains unknown but all are now thought to involve dysfunction of central pain processing, leading to increased sensitivity to touch and other stimuli. A number of genes involved in pain and touch sensitivity have been linked to these conditions, indicating there may be a genetic predisposition. All seem to affect women more than men; however, it seems there is usually some trigger, such as an illness, exposure to a noxious chemical or a stressful event.


What Is GWS?

Within a year of returning home, many of the personnel — approximately 30 percent — involved in the Gulf War began experiencing a range of symptoms that were difficult to explain and varied between individuals. Continue…

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