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IOM Recommends Definitions for 'Gulf War' Multisymptom Illness

THURSDAY, March 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Two definitions for chronic multisymptom illness should be used to identify cases of Gulf War illness among Gulf War veterans, according to a report published by the Institute of Medicine.

Kenneth Shine, M.D., from the University of Texas in Austin, and colleagues reviewed the available literature to develop a case definition for chronic multisymptom illness in relation to 1990 to 1991 Gulf War veterans.

Recognizing the difficulty of establishing a case definition given the lack of uniform symptoms, the variety of symptoms, and the long onset and duration, the researchers note that the absence of an agreed upon definition may limit the ability to select and administer treatments. The committee could not recommend one specific case definition, but did recommend consideration of two case definitions on the basis of their concordance with the evidence. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas definitions seem to describe the array of symptoms most frequently reported by veterans. To capture the population of interest and symptoms, the authors recommend use of the term "Gulf War illness" rather than chronic multisymptom illness.

"The diversity and intensity of exposures and experiences, as well as the breadth and extent of symptoms, warrant workable definitions of the illness and nomenclature so the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can advance research and administer effective treatments," Shine said in a statement.

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