Gulf War Syndrome II

Symptoms: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), severe headaches, rashes, joint pain, muscle pain, nerve damage, neurological damage, kidney damage, lung damage, cardiovascular signs or symptoms, thyroid disease, multiple cancers, auto-immune deficiencies, unusual fevers and night sweats, fluid buildup, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal signs or symptoms, abnormal births and defects, menstrual problems, reduced IQ, confusion, memory loss, blood in stools and urine, Epstein Barr syndrome, genetic alterations, sinus diseases, microplasma fermentans incognitis, infections, unusual hair loss, loss of smell, chemical sensitivities, asthma, vision problems, acute paranoia.

Treatment: No successful treatment is known. Some symptoms may be temporarily relieved by treatment with muscle relaxants or pain-killers.

Like the Gulf War Syndrome reported following Operation Desert Storm, the current incarnation most closely resembles fibromyalgia, but encapsulates a host of unrelated symptoms, and is thought to have been caused by exposure to chemical and biological agents during combat.

Few cases have yet been reported, but as more service men and women return from combat in Iraq it is expected that thousands more cases will arise.

The most significant difference between what physicians are calling Gulf War Syndrome II and its predecessor is the presence of severe paranoia, a symptom shown in all the cases thus far reported, and which may cause in sufferers the delusion that they are the object of nefarious conspiracies of outlandish proportions.

Most of the known cases have been reported by military physicians, suggesting a change in attitude regarding Gulf War Syndrome, the existence of which was previously denied by military officials.


Flaherty's Itch


Symptoms: A migratory itch, unaccompanied by rash, hives, or wheals, and unresponsive to treatment by anti-histamines, topical anti-biotics, steroids, or opioid blockers.

In extreme cases sufferers may scratch themselves so vigorously that lesions and scarring occur, and may develop insomnia, eventually leading to dementia.

Atypical to normal itch-cycles, sufferers of Flaherty's Itch gain not even short term relief from scratching. Researchers believe this suggests not an abnormal itch, but an insensitivity to pain. In typical itching, the brain can be distracted from the discomfort of the itch by the slight pain caused
by scratching, but when sensitivity to pain is dulled, as with treatment by morphine or other strong painkillers, itching becomes severe and cannot often be quelled.

It has been suggested that sufferers of Flaherty's Itch are people in whose brains exists a surplus of morphinelike molecules called opioids, but treatment with opioid blockers like naxolene has been ineffective in a majority of test cases. Still, many researchers accept that insensitivity to pain is responsible for Flaherty's Itch, but have yet to determine a uniform cause of that insensitivity.

Some researchers claim that neurological causes can be ruled out, since sufferers rarely show anomalies in brain chemistry, and almost never show any evidence of nerve damage.

Interestingly, the syndrome takes its name not from any researcher or clinician, but from a 19th century missionary priest, Seamus Flaherty. The priest was installed in a mission in Belize where he produced an astonishing record of conversions. After several years in South America Flaherty began to complain of a persistent itch of "unmatched ferocity", and claimed that it was evidence of "the demon dwelling within" him. It was Flaherty's claim that, in a dream, he had "invited the devil to penetrate my flesh", and thus the itch had begun. An attempt at exorcism was unsuccessful, and soon after Flaherty disappeared.


Media Induced Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (MIPTSD)

New studies of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, which is brought about by exposure to extreme violence, indicates that the symptoms of PTSD can manifest in response to simulated danger. Symptoms have been diagnosed in patients who have had no real-world contact with traumatic events. These patients developed PTSD after exposure to as little as 5 hours per week of media violence featuring scenarios of actual or threatened death or serious injury.

Symptoms in common with PTSD:

• Numbing of general responsiveness as indicated by: markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities, detachment or estrangement from others, restricted range of affect, and the feeling of a foreshortened future.

• Persistent symptoms of increased arousal as indicated by: difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response.

Symptoms unique to MIPTSD:

• An overwhelming desire to seek out violent images. This symptom distinguishes Media Induced PTSD from primary PTSD. Patients with primary PTSD seek to avoid any stimuli associated with the trauma, while MIPTSD patients are compulsively drawn to violent images and scenarios. They may play a violent video game over and over, watch a gruesome movie several times, or obsess over a particular current event: such as a mass murder, gang rape, war, or terrorist attack.

• Mean World Syndrome: is the distinguishing symptom of MIPTSD. “Mean world” syndrome is characterized by a perception of the world as an overly dangerous place. This belief is cultivated by exposure to entertainment media that focuses excessively on violence and encourages a false perception of its prevalence in the world. The consequent fear of being a victim can motivate individuals to carry weapons and to be aggressive and “get them before they get me.”

Treatment: Unlike primary PTSD, which can be traced to a traumatic event or events in the life of the patient, sufferers of MIPTSD deal with trauma from the lives of strangers that creates a complex psychological response, which does not respond easily to treatment. Patients also cope with a constant influx of new images, which makes psychotherapeutic treatment inconclusive unless exposure to media violence ceases.

Implications: Media Induced PTSD could have widespread implications for people in industrialized nations where there is increasing consumption of media that features violent or disturbing images and stories. The resulting “mean world” syndrome may account for a rise in aggressive behavior on all fronts: from bullys at the local primary school to foreign policy makers in Washington. With the discovery of Media Induced Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, we may be compelled to reconsider the phenomenon of violence in entertainment media as a public health issue.


EMF Infertility


Electromagnetic fields, long believed to cause cancer, depression and a host of other physical and mental illnesses, are now suspected of causing infertility. Dr. Charles Bodine, at the Center for Infertility Research in North Carolina, has been searching for new insights into the mechanisms of fertilization. Previously believed to be a matter of chance, Bodine has proven that egg and sperm unite under more deliberate circumstances. He has discovered that the ovum emits an electrochemical “signal” that helps sperm find it. More-over, this signal is selective and can only be “heard” by sperm with complementary chemical receptivity. Ostensibly, sperm with the qualities that particular egg is looking for.

The problem arises when electrical noise disrupts this delicate communication. The culprits: power plants, transformers, MRI scanners, as well as household appliances like microwave ovens and laptop computers. Dr. Bodine believes EMF interference may be the cause of infertility in two out of three cases for which no other physical disfunction can be blamed, and it may be a contributing factor in as many as 85% of all cases.

Symptoms: Infertility without diagnosable cause, which does not respond to conventional treatment.

Treatment: The good news is that EMF infertility lasts only as long as the interference is present. Dr. Bodine believes that exposure to electromagnetic fields does not do permanent damage to the mechanisms of fertilization. He recommends a “back to nature” treatment program, one or two monthly cycles spent in a place with few or no electronic devices. Bodine claims that this course of treatment works for many of his patients and he recommends it for anyone thinking of beginning infertility treatment. “I tell all my patients to try this first,” he says, “a few months in the woods or at the beach, it’s safer, less stressful and far less expensive than modern medical intervention. And it works.”

Implications: For industrialized nations, who are every year reporting an increase in the incidence of infertility, advances in technology and the resulting increase in consumption may have disastrous effects on birth rates in those nations.


Parasitical Mold


A new strain of mold has been discovered, which experts are calling, “insidious, difficult to diagnose and almost impossible to eradicate.” The mold is parasitical, able to replicate the characteristics of both organic and inorganic hosts. A recent strain was found on a cruise ship mimicking the flocked wallpaper in the powder rooms.

Another discovery outside of Prague, an outbreak of severe skin rashes, was traced to grout in the shower room of a public pool. “The tiles appeared to be clean, there was no visible mold or mildew,” says a researcher from the biotech institute. “But when we tested the grout we found a mutated strain of Aspergillus. The interesting thing about this mold is that it changed before our eyes. In the lab it mutated to mimic the gel in the petri dish.

The mold from the cruise ship and from the Prague pool are believed to be the same and researchers from the CDC are trying to determine where it originated and how widespread the outbreak may become. Patients affected by the mold have shown little improvement. The mold appears to be mutating in their bodies, mimicking lung tissue. “If we kill the mold, we kill the tissue,” says one health care worker, “There is no way to get rid of this.”

Symptoms: are various since allergic reactions are as diverse as the mutation. They include but are not limited to: runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, watery eyes. In extreme circumstances, upper respiratory distress or failure. Several fatalities have been attributed to the mold.

Treatment: Effective methods of treatment have not been determined. Infection can be partially curtailed by antibiotics, though the organism’s ability to mutate gives them limited effectiveness. Allergy symptoms are treated with antihistamine.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

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