Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Can you explain "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?"

This condition is actually a modern medical X-Files case. Originally described in the late 1980s, CFS has no definite symptoms and no clear cause or origin. Instead, it is often confused with or misdiagnosed as one of several other illnesses with strikingly similar symptoms, including lupus, mononucleosis, chronic Lyme disease, and neurally mediated hypotension. Although it can affect anyone from any race or ethnic background in any socioeconomic class, it has been found to affect women more than men, often striking its victims between the ages of 25 and 45.

Because researchers have no clear idea how CFS originates, theories abound. While some scientists hypothesize that the disease stems from a viral infection, similar to cytomegalovirus, others have noticed that certain cases appear in clusters, affecting a segment of a community or family. Again, studies are in their early stages, and no clear links have really been established between either environmental or genetic factors and subsequent infections.

The number of symptoms attached to the disease are enough to fill a book, but the primary ones include excessive fatigue that is often debilitating, an intolerance to physical or emotional stress that formerly could have been handled without a problem. Other symptoms that may be present may be difficulties with short-term memory, sore lymph glands and muscles, joint swelling, or headaches. Other patients may experience depression, a disruption of their normal menstrual cycles, and new intolerances to drugs or alcohol. In order to diagnose CFS correctly, a patient must have her complete medical history examined, and must have had the symptoms appear suddenly for a duration of at least six months. Since CFS is generally diagnosed through a process of elimination, it may be frustrating for a woman to sit through several tests as her doctor rules out other possibilities.

Again, since CFS is a medical mystery of sorts, treating it is equally problematic. Instead of being able to address any underlying condition that may be causing all of the symptoms, doctors are currently only able to treat those physical manifestations. For example, different medications that may be prescribed are used to treat the individual symptoms in order to alleviate depression, sleep disruptions, and gastrointestinal difficulties. However, it has been noted that people with CFS can react in unusual ways to medication, so doctors are advised to start their patients on very low doses, increasing the amounts until they can see therapeutic benefits in their patients.

Unfortunately, little is known about the disease, but if a woman is suffering from chronic fatigue, she should consult her physician in order to figure out exactly what her condition is. And she may want to consider calling Mulder and Scully on this one as well.

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