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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Q&A: Gulf War Syndrome
A British tank and crew in the desert
Some Gulf veterans have suffered from various complaints

Some soldiers who served in the 1991 Gulf War say they have suffered from continuing medical complaints since the war. BBC News Online explains the ongoing issue.

What is Gulf War Syndrome?

Opinion differs on whether the syndrome actually exists, but ex-soldiers report mood swings, memory loss, lack of concentration, night sweats, general fatigue and sexual problems.

How many soldiers believe they suffer from the syndrome?

Support groups claim about 6,000 veterans have suffered unexplained poor health since the 1991 war.

What do the soldiers think caused their medical problems?

Vaccines against anthrax and the plague, nerve agents from Iraqi chemical weapons storage facilities, pesticides and exposure to pollution from burning oil wells have all been cited as possible causes of ill-health in Gulf veterans.

What research has been carried out?

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published its study of more than 40,000 former soldiers in July. It concluded that the soldiers were more likely to report symptoms, but that similar symptoms were reported by both those who served in the Gulf, and those who did not.

The US government-appointed Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War veterans' illness, in an October 2004 study, said exposure to certain substances in the Gulf may have altered some troops' body chemistry.

What is the Ministry of Defence's standpoint?

The MoD has always denied the existence of a so-called Gulf War syndrome. It argues that there was no single cause of the illnesses reported by veterans from the conflict.

Has there been an official UK inquiry?

No. There is an independent inquiry, funded by private donors. It began in July 2004 and is expected to take three months. It has heard evidence from veterans, medical experts and the government.

What have the veterans done to push their case for recognition?

The British Legion first called for a public inquiry into the illnesses surrounding the 1991-1992 Gulf War veterans seven years ago.

Some veterans have taken their case to court. In May 2003, ill veteran Shaun Rusling won an appeal after he was denied his army pension. An appeal court ruled that Gulf War syndrome did exist - and was caused by active service.

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