CONTACT: Catherine M. Brzozowski
Marketing and Public Relations
For Immediate Release
By: Nicole Davis, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.
With more than one million American sufferers, chronic fatigue syndrome
strikes more people than some of the most common cancers but is significantly
harder to diagnose. Chronic fatigue syndrome is marked by unrelenting, pervasive
mental and physical exhaustion. People with chronic fatigue syndrome often
experience a drastic decline in levels of both activity and stamina.
Characterized by severe fatigue that lasts longer than two weeks and impairs
normal activity, chronic fatigue syndrome is often accompanied by frequent
urination, sleep problems, muscle pain and swelling of the glands in the neck or
armpits which lasts at least two weeks. Because fatigue can be caused by a
variety of conditions, there is no single test to diagnose chronic fatigue
syndrome. Doctors instead must rule out other diseases with similar symptoms.
After other possibilities are ruled out and doctors have determined that the
fatigue is persistent, they can diagnose the condition as chronic fatigue
Frequent urination and exhaustion are sometimes symptoms of diabetes, so
doctors will monitor blood sugar levels to rule it out as a cause of the
symptoms. Immune system diseases, including HIV, thyroid diseases, Lyme disease
and arthritis also sometimes cause fatigue, so a doctor will often test to rule
them out as well.
In general, symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome are the worst at the
beginning of the condition and may go away briefly and return. There is no cure
for chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors, however, have discovered that by treating
the symptoms, the syndrome may lessen or go away entirely. The degree to which
chronic fatigue syndrome affects different people varies. While some people are
able to go about their daily activities, many have to reduce their activity
levels to retain enough energy for high priority tasks. People most strongly
affected may even need help accomplishing basic tasks like getting out of bed or
Though women are four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with the
condition, there is no evidence to account for that difference. Some specialists
think that the disorder is simply more often reported by women than men. Fatigue
syndromes are rare in children but occasionally occur in teenagers, especially
those who have recently had mononucleosis or the flu. The illness is most common
in people between the ages of 25 and 45.
Doctors and specialists are still speculating as to the cause of chronic
fatigue syndrome. Some theories point to a viral or bacterial infection as the
cause; other theories list problems in the immune system, the nervous system,
the glandular system, or the patient's family history as possible causes. No
conclusive data supports any of these theories, but scientists continue to
research what may cause or contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. Though
sometimes difficult to diagnose, studies have found that early detection and
treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome result in quicker recovery.
While not directly linked, patients of chronic fatigue syndrome often
experience depression during their illness. Between 50 percent and 66 percent of
people with chronic fatigue syndrome develop depression as a result of the
disease. Depression, combined with the already exhausting effects of the chronic
illness itself, often makes the disease's effects much worse. Chronic fatigue
syndrome sufferers who experience depression should seek treatment for their
depression. In fact, antidepressant medication is most often used as the first
line treatment in chronic fatigue syndrome.
If you have experienced several of these symptoms recently, you may want to
speak with your doctor about the possibility of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Because chronic fatigue syndrome often takes time to diagnose, patients
experiencing symptoms should contact their doctor to begin treatment as soon as
possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can ease symptoms before they worsen.
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Chestnut Hill Health System provides quality health care, covering the
spectrum of services from prenatal through geriatric, for families in northwest
Philadelphia and eastern Montgomery County.