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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Posted by chronic | My Diary | Posted on July 16th, 2010

Сhronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is the most common name given to a variably debilitating disorder or disorders generally defined by persistent fatigue unrelated to exertion, not substantially relieved by rest and accompanied by the presence of other specific symptoms for a minimum of six months.

The disorder may also be referred to as post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS, when the condition arises following a flu-like illness), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), or several other terms. The disease process in CFS displays a range of neurological, immunological, and endocrine system abnormalities. Although classified by the World Health

Organization under Diseases of the nervous system, the etiology (cause or origin) of CFS is currently unknown and there is no diagnostic laboratory test or biomarker. Fatigue is a common symptom in many illnesses, but CFS is a multi-systemic disease and is relatively rare by comparison. Symptoms of CFS include widespread muscle and joint pain; cognitive difficulties; chronic, often severe, mental and physical exhaustion; and other characteristic symptoms in a previously healthy and active person.

CFS patients may report additional symptoms including muscle weakness, hypersensitivity, orthostatic intolerance, digestive disturbances, depression, poor immune response, and cardiac and respiratory problems. It is unclear if these symptoms represent co-morbid conditions or are produced by an underlying etiology of CFS. All diagnostic criteria require that the symptoms must not be caused by other medical conditions.

Studies have reported numbers on the prevalence of CFS that vary widely, from 7 to 3,000 cases of CFS for every 100,000 adults, but national health organizations have estimated more than 1 million Americans and approximately a quarter of a million people in the UK have CFS. For unknown reasons CFS occurs most often in people in their 40s and 50s, more often in women than men, and is less prevalent among children and adolescents. The quality of life is “particularly and uniquely disrupted” in CFS, and full recovery from the condition occurs in only 5-10% of cases.

Whereas there is agreement on the genuine threat to health, happiness and productivity posed by CFS, various physicians’ groups, researchers and patient advocates promote different nomenclature, diagnostic criteria, etiologic hypotheses and treatments, resulting in controversy about many aspects of the disorder. The name CFS itself is controversial as many patients and advocacy groups, as well as some experts, want the name changed as they believe that it stigmatizes by not conveying the seriousness of the illness.

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