Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an autoimmune disease and is often part of depression. Holistic medicine has made great inroads in alleviating the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, though there is no cure. With too much stress CFS will return especially as life has become so stressful for most people.

CFS is the common name for a group of significantly debilitating medical conditions characterized by persistent fatigue and other specific symptoms that lasts for a minimum of six months in adults (and 3 months in children or adolescents).

The fatigue is not due to exertion, not significantly relieved by rest, and is not caused by other medical conditions. CFS may also be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), or by several other terms. Biological, genetic, infectious and psychological mechanisms have been proposed, but the etiology of CFS is not understood and it may have multiple causes.

Symptoms of CFS include malaise after exertion; restless sleep, widespread muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headaches of a type not previously experienced, cognitive difficulties, chronic and severe mental and physical exhaustion, and other characteristic symptoms in a previously healthy and active person.

Additional symptoms may be reported, including muscle weakness, increased sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, orthostatic intolerance, digestive disturbances, depression, painful and often slightly swollen lymph nodes, cardiac and respiratory problems. It is unclear if these symptoms represent co-morbid conditions or if they are produced by an underlying etiology of CFS. CFS symptoms vary in number, type, and severity from person to person. Quality of life of persons with CFS can be extremely compromised.

Fatigue is a common symptom in many illnesses, but CFS is comparatively rare. Estimates of prevalence vary from 7 to 3,000 cases of CFS for every 100,000 adults; national health organizations have estimated more than one million Americans and approximately a quarter of a million people in the UK have CFS. CFS occurs more often in women than men, and is less prevalent among children and adolescents.

Although there is agreement that CFS poses genuine threats to health, happiness and productivity, various physicians' groups, researchers and patient advocates promote differing nomenclatures, diagnostic criteria, etiologic hypotheses and treatments, resulting in controversy about many aspects of the disorder. The name "chronic fatigue syndrome" is controversial; many patients and advocacy groups, as well as some experts, believe the name trivializes the medical condition and they promote a name change.

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In the News ...

New Recognition for Chronic Fatigue   New York Times - December 5, 2017
After years of treating the syndrome as a psychological disorder, leading health organizations now recognize that it is a serious, long-term illness possibly caused by a disruption in how the immune system responds to infection or stress. It shares many characteristics with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis but without apparent signs of tissue damage.

A Test For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome   Huffington Post - March 1, 2015
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects one million Americans, according to recent estimates. Yet there's no reliable lab test for the illness, and researchers are still struggling to understand why and how the disease develops. That situation may soon improve, as researchers have found key disruptions in the immune systems of patients who've had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome fewer than three years, a discovery that could open the door to new tests and more individually tailored treatments for the debilitating illness. Over 70 percent of patients have a delay in diagnosis of at least a year and sometimes a decade. Time for an early diagnosis.

Brain imaging reveals clues about chronic fatigue syndrome   PhysOrg - May 24, 2014
Compared with healthy controls, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome had less activation of the basal ganglia, as measured by fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). This reduction of basal ganglia activity was also linked with the severity of fatigue symptoms.

Baffling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Set for Diagnostic Overhaul   Scientific American - May 16, 2014
More than one million people in the U.S. suffer from a poorly understood, difficult-to-diagnose condition that can leave them debilitated by unshakable exhaustion, pain, depression and cognitive trouble. Researchers, however, are still unsure what causes chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), how to treat it, how best to diagnose it and even what to call it. Chronic fatigue syndrome was first formally described in the late 1980s.

Soon thereafter it was lumped in with another perplexing condition known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which had been classified as a disease of the nervous system in the 1960s. A precise definition and diagnosis of CFS - sometimes called CFS/ME - has largely eluded doctors and researchers, however. Its subjectively described symptoms seem untestable: everyone is exhausted from time to time; many people suffer from occasional aches and pains; and, sure, we all have foggy days as well as down ones. A large obstacle is that, unlike cancers or high blood pressure, researchers have no particular biomarkers that would allow them to test for the condition. Doctors rely exclusively on patient reports of the severity and duration of the symptoms - usually requiring the symptoms to be present for at least six consecutive months - along with the presence of extreme post-physical or mental exertion, fatigue and restless sleep, to diagnose the condition. Remissions and relapses confound clinicians further.