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article imageChronic Fatigue Syndrome isn't Just in Your Head

By unusualsuspect     Jul 18, 2007 in Health
"For decades, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have struggled to convince doctors, employers, friends and even family members that they were not imagining their debilitating symptoms." It's been called shirker syndrome and yuppie flu.
Anybody's who's watched a family's main wage earner struggle for years with overwhelming fatigue and other symptoms, and still work 40 or more hours a week knows how devastating this disease can be. Victims give up every normal semblance of a life, just trying to recoup enough energy after work and on week-ends, to keep going on the job.
CFS is still controversial, with little or no agreement as to how many people have it, what causes it, and what can help, but at least it's gaining respect as a real problem rather than being sloughed off. Still, it's not particularly comforting to know that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted in 1999 that they had diverted funds for research to other programs. Who knows how far ahead we might be in understanding and coming to grips with CFS by now, if the money allocated by Congress had been used as intended?
"...last month, the C.D.C. released survey data suggesting that the prevalence of the syndrome is far higher than previously thought, although these findings have stirred controversy among patients and scientists. Some scientists and many patients remain highly critical of the C.D.C.’s record on chronic fatigue syndrome, or C.F.S. But nearly everyone now agrees that the syndrome is real."
Besides the fatigue, it causes sleep disorders, fever, cognitive problems, including impaired memory, and a host of other symptoms. It affects women far more often than men, and not everyone displays the same range of symptoms. Like Fibromyalgia, which many consider to be closely related, its markers are often vague enough and sufficiently variable to be ignored by physicians as psychosomatic. And brushing it off in that way has been easier because women are presumed to be more subject to imaginary complaints.
The syndrome was identified and named in the 1980s, and even earlier than that in Britain, where it's called myalgic encephalomyelitis. There are many possible causes, but there is a fair amount of consensus that it's often triggered by a stressor of some kind, perhaps from a bout of mononucleosis or Lyme disease, from toxins, or other kind of physical or emotional trauma. There's a strong possibility that susceptibility is at least partially genetic, though the links haven't been established.
With widespread disagreement on issues as seemingly uncomplicated as how to structure studies, there doesn't seem to be much use hoping for any immediate cures. But at least CFS sufferers no longer have to put up with being considered wimps and shirkers. That is, if they can dredge up the energy to face down their accusers.
More about Cfs, Fatigue, Yuppie flu, Tired
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