Chronic fatigue syndrome / CFIDS Fact Sheet|
CFIDS Association of America
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also called chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFS). It is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Social Security Administration (SSA) as a serious, disabling illness.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by unrelenting exhaustion, muscle and joint pain, cognitive disorders and other symptoms. Many people with Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are denied disability benefits because doctors and employers wrongly believe they are lazy or have a mental illness rather than a serious physical condition.
Research on Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is being conducted on many fronts, but the cause of the disease remains a mystery.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) strikes more than 4 million people in the United States.
Research indicates that prevalence is highest in people aged 40-59, but people of every age have CFS.
People of every ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic group can have CFS.
Although Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is significantly less common in children than in adults, children can develop the illness, particularly in adolescence.
According to the CDC, Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by fatigue that is medically unexplained; is of new onset; lasts at least six months; is not the result of ongoing exertion; is not substantially relieved by rest; and causes a substantial reduction in activity levels.
In addition to fatigue, Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) includes 4 or more characteristic symptoms: postexertional malaise (relapse of symptoms after physical or mental exertion); unrefreshing sleep; substantial impairment in memory/concentration; muscle pain; pain in multiple joints; headaches of a new type, pattern or severity; sore throat; and tender neck or armpit lymph nodes.
Symptoms and their consequences can be severe. A survey of more than 8,000 medical professionals conducted by the CFIDS Association showed most physicians believe Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and similar chronic conditions. Symptom severity varies from patient to patient.
There are no definitive physical signs that identify CFS.
There are no diagnostic laboratory tests for CFS, so it's a diagnosis of exclusion.
People who suffer the symptoms of Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) must be carefully evaluated by a physician because many treatable medical and psychiatric conditions are difficult to distinguish (for instance, mononucleosis, multiple sclerosis, various cancers, depression, metabolic syndrome).
Research conducted by the CDC indicates that less than 20% of Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients in this country have been diagnosed.
Since there is no known cure for CFS, treatment is aimed primarily at symptom relief and improved function. A combination of drug and nondrug therapies is usually prescribed.
No single therapy exists that helps all patients with CFS.
Lifestyle changes, including prevention of overexertion, reduced stress, dietary restrictions, gentle stretching and nutritional supplementation, are frequently recommended.
Carefully supervised physical therapy may also be part of treatment for CFS. However, Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can be exacerbated by vigorous physical activity. A paced, graded approach to exercise and activity management is recommended to avoid overactivity and to prevent deconditioning.
Although health professionals may hesitate to give patients a diagnosis of Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) for various reasons, it is important to receive an appropriate and accurate diagnosis to guide treatment and evaluation.
Delays in diagnosis and treatment may be associated with poorer long-term outcomes. The CDC's research has shown that people who have Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) for two years or less are more likely to improve. The longer a person is ill before diagnosis, the more complicated the course of the illness appears to be.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) affects each individual differently. Some people with Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) remain homebound and others improve to the point that they can resume work and other activities, even though they continue to experience symptoms.
Recovery rates for Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are unclear. According to one of the few published studies, the probability of significant improvement was about 30 percent during the first five years of illness and 48 percent during the first 10 years. However, even "recovered" patients stated that they still had some Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms, and one-third had relapsed six months later.
Despite an intensive, nearly 20-year search, the cause of Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) remains unknown. Many different infectious agents, physiologic causes and psychological factors have been considered, and the search continues.
Much of the ongoing research into a cause now centers on the roles the brain and the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems may play in CFS. Recently, interactions among these factors are under evaluation.
Genetic and environmental factors may play a role in developing and/or prolonging the illness, although more research is needed to confirm this. Researchers are applying cutting edge genomic and proteomic tools to understand the origins and pathogenesis of CFS.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is not caused by depression, although the two illnesses often coexist. Many patients with Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) don't have any psychiatric disorder.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a leading public health problem, yet federal funding for research on the illness has declined since 1995. The CFIDS Association continues to press Congress and federal health agencies to allocate more resources to the investigation of CFIDS.
In 1999, the Social Security Administration issued guidelines for determining disability benefits for persons with CFS. This recognition of Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as a disabling condition is a major step forward for patients who can no longer work as a result of the illness.
Chronic Fatigue - Symptoms
Although its name trivializes the illness as little more than mere tiredness, chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), brings with it a constellation of debilitating symptoms.
CFIDS is characterized by incapacitating fatigue (experienced as profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina) and problems with concentration and short-term memory. It is also accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as pain in the joints and muscles, unrefreshing sleep, tender lymph nodes, sore throat and headache. A distinctive characteristic of the illness is post-exertional malaise, a worsening of symptoms following physical or mental exertion occurring within 12-48 hours of the exertion and requiring an extended recovery period.
The symptoms of CFIDS are highly variable and fluctuate in severity, complicating treatment and the ill person's ability to cope with the illness. Most symptoms are invisible, which makes it difficult for others to understand the vast array of debilitating symptoms with which people with the illness must contend.
Other Common Symptoms
Additional symptoms are reported by people with CFIDS (PWCs) such as word-finding difficulties, inability to comprehend/retain what is read, inability to calculate numbers and impairment of speech and/or reasoning. PWCs may also have visual disturbances (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain, need for frequent prescription changes); psychological problems (depression, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, personality changes, mood swings); chills and night sweats; shortness of breath; dizziness and balance problems; sensitivity to heat and/or cold; alcohol intolerance; irregular heartbeat; irritable bowel (abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, intestinal gas); low-grade fever or low body temperature; numbness, tingling and/or burning sensations in the face or extremities; dryness of the mouth and eyes (sicca syndrome); gynecological problems including PMS and endometriosis; chest pains; rashes; ringing in the ears (tinnitus); allergies and sensitivities to noise/sound, odors, chemicals and medications; weight changes without changes in diet; light-headedness; mental fogginess; fainting; muscle twitching; and seizures.
CFIDS Association of America