Finally, More Scientific Evidence For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Written by Emi Boscamp

Many people (even medical experts) have long dismissed chronic fatigue syndrome as a psychological or even imagined illness. But today, the condition — defined by persistent daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment — got some much-needed validation from the medical community.

A new report from a 15-member committee from the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) argues that the syndrome is a real, physical disorder with diagnostic criteria. According to a press release, the committee is even going so far as to suggest a new name for the condition, because they believe that a new name would express to sufferers that there's "improved clinician knowledge and acceptance, and an enhanced research agenda" for it.

They suggest a name that really underscores the extreme exhaustion sufferers experience after minimal physical, mental, or emotional effort: systemic exertion intolerance disease.

"We just needed to put to rest, once and for all, the idea that this is just psychosomatic or that people were making this up, or that they were just lazy," Ellen Wright Clayton, a professor of pediatrics and law at Vanderbilt University, who chaired the committee of the IOM, told the Washington Post.

And while the cause of the disorder is still unknown, the panel defined three critical symptoms for the condition:

  • A sharp reduction in the ability to engage in pre-illness activity levels that lasts for more than six months and is accompanied by deep fatigue that only recently developed.
  • Worsening of symptoms after any type of exertion, including "physical, cognitive or emotional stress."
  • Sleep that doesn't refresh the sufferer.

Plus, according to the new report, at least one of these two additional symptoms:

  • You regularly experience signs of mild cognitive impairment — for example, misplacing things like your keys or forgetting about scheduled appointments or get-togethers with friends.
  • You experience something called "orthostatic intolerance" — meaning that all of these symptoms get a little bit worse when you're standing upright, and the fatigue doesn't improve until you're lying down again.

Up to 2.5 million Americans likely suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome — and the figure may be even higher than that, as it's often misdiagnosed as a psychological disorder. Consequently, many people are not getting the proper treatment for their illness. If that's not a reason to try to understand it better and offer our support to sufferers of the debilitating condition, well, we're not really sure what is.

(h/t The Washington Post)

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