Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The CDC Says It's a Big Problem
If your normal state seems to be crushing exhaustion, the problem may be more than just the job plus the kids. Today, concerned that chronic fatigue syndrome is an underappreciated public-health problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a $4.5 million campaign to educate physicians and the public about the illness.
Symptoms include profound fatigueespecially after mental or physical exertionjoint pain, impaired memory, problems sleeping, and often depression. The cause isn't known and there's no cure, but drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological counseling can ease distress. "The most important thing to understand is that the fatigue component creates a significant disability," says Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC. "There is no gold standard test," she explains, and doctors first have to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing CFS. It's believed that early detection is related to better outcomes and greater likelihood of improvement.
Research suggests that the condition may affect people who are genetically predisposed, and that the way an individual responds to environmental stress may play a role, toospecifically, "the relationship between the brain, the body, and the body's ability to adapt to stressors," says Gerberding. Experts estimate that the condition affects about 1 million Americans, of whom 80 percent have not been diagnosed. While people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic groups can develop CFS, women are typically four times more likely than men to get it.
On Monday, the National Institutes of Health awarded grants to seven researchers studying the relationship between CFS and the immune and neurological systems. The hope is that the investigations will yield a better understanding of why some of the current treatments bring relief and possibly determine a biomarker for better diagnosis.