If you have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), you may be used to the skeptical looks when you explain your condition. In fact, for years even medical professionals had trouble believing this devastating condition is real.
However, new findings published in the journal Radiology suggest that we're getting closer to that test.
Scientists at Stanford University compared the brain MRI scans of 15 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome with the scans of 14 healthy patients of the same age and sex, and they were noticeably different. The brains of patients with CFS had less white matter — which contains the fibers each part of the brain uses to communicate with the others — compared to the brains of healthy patients.
The scientists also identified a consistent abnormality in the right hemisphere of CFS patients' brains: Two particular nerve tracts in CFS brains were thicker than the same tracts in the healthy brains.
The researchers told Today that they think these anomalies could be attributed to chronic inflammation in the brains of CFS patients, and perhaps throughout their bodies. Zeineh says it's possible that the inflammation was caused by the response to some sort of viral infection.
It's important to keep in mind, though, that the study was small and needs to be performed on a much larger scale for any of these findings to be confirmed.
Zeineh hopes that future research will not only lead to a decisive test for CFS but also a better understanding of the disease so that we can treat it more effectively, and to spread awareness so the general public views it as a legitimate medical condition.
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