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
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
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.