The VT CFIDS Association, Inc.
5 things you didn't know about chronic fatigue syndrome
Not long ago, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was dismissed as ''yuppie flu.'' Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have labeled it a disabling disease, as debilitating as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The syndrome affects more than a million Americans, with only 20 percent of victims diagnosed. People with the disorder experience profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and may grow worse with physical or mental activity. Despite an intensive, nearly 20-year search into environmental, genetic and other factors, the cause of CFS remains unknown.
An international panel of experts in 1994 ruled that victims must have at least four of these symptoms: substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; multijoint pain without swelling or redness; headaches of a new type, pattern or severity; unrefreshing sleep; and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.
It occurs more frequently in women and people between the ages of 40 and 59. It's as common among African Americans and Hispanics as it is among Caucasians. It can run in families, but there's no evidence that it's contagious.
CFS has no physical signs and there are no diagnostic lab tests for it. Victims must be evaluated by a physician.
Lifestyle changes, including prevention of over-exertion, reduced stress, dietary restrictions, gentle stretching and nutritional supplementation, are frequently recommended in addition to drugs used to treat sleep, pain and other specific symptoms. The CDC reports that improvement rates varied from 8 percent to 63 percent in a 2005 review of published studies, with a median of 40 percent of patients improving during follow-up. However, full recovery from CFS may be rare.
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