Researchers have been puzzled by Gulf War illness, which is characterized by a number of symptoms that affect many Gulf War veterans.

According to USA Today, symptoms of the illness can range from headaches to chronic fatigue, and more than one in four veterans of the war experiences these symptoms. Now, a new study is suggesting that the cause of the illness could be damage to the automatic nervous system.

Difficulty identifying symptoms
Lead study author Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told the news provider that when it comes to diagnosing the illness, it can be very difficult because soldiers have a hard time explaining their symptoms. In order to complete the study, the news provider reports Haley had 97 veterans complete 25 different tests. One of the factors he looked at during the research was the test subjects' brain imaging.

The news provider reports that veterans who are experiencing Gulf War illness tend to fall into three different syndrome categories – cognitive issues or depression, confusion that is similar to early Alzheimer's disease or severe pain throughout the body.

"Many of these veterans have been told that there is nothing wrong with them," Haley said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. "Our hope is that the physicians treating our veterans will read this study and recognize the symptoms, and that this will lead to better treatments."

The illness has been studied for years in an effort to treat veterans experiencing symptoms. According to the news source, the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs held two hearings in 2009 on the condition. It was revealed during the hearings that there had been more than 345 research projects on Gulf War illness between 1992 and 2007. However, there has been criticism on these studies because they did not focus on the causes and treatments.

Those affected could receive aid
The Department of Veteran Affairs reports that the VA currently offers disability compensation for soldiers who experience certain chronic symptoms relating to the condition. The website states that soldiers who have experienced functional gastrointestinal disorders, chronic fatigue symptom, fibromyalgia and others could be entitled to compensation from the government.