Feeling tired and wondering if you have chronic fatigue? Odds are you don’t. With today’s frenzied pace of living, fatigue is widespread. There is also a long laundry list of other possible causes of fatigue.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (also called chronic fatigue and immune deficiency syndrome — CFIDS) is a serious, disabling disease with many symptoms, not only fatigue. It has often been the subject of ridicule — sometimes dubbed “Yuppie Flu” by people who do not understand that it is a very real and debilitating condition.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Despite popular misconception, CFIDS does not equal chronic tiredness. The characteristic symptom is an overwhelming fatigue and weakness that can incapacitate you. It often begins somewhat surreptitiously, coming on abruptly with symptoms that mimic those of the flu. Only the symptoms do not go away.
Because CFIDS is a complicated disorder that is difficult to diagnose, the government has issued some diagnostic guidelines:
- The fatigue must be severe and last six months or longer.
- In addition to fatigue, the patient must have at least four other chronic symptoms that appeared after the fatigue, including sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, sleep that is not restful, and memory or concentration problems.
- Alternative causes for the fatigue and other symptoms must have been ruled out.
The cause or causes of CFIDS are still a mystery. It was once thought to be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the main cause of mononucleosis. This is no longer believed to be true, although EBV may play a partial role or serve as a trigger.
Some experts think CFIDS is an autoimmune disease caused by a complicated mix of precipitating factors and circumstances. They theorize that CFIDS may arise when someone with an already weakened immune system is exposed to a certain virus or disease agent.
Since the cause is unknown, there is no way to determine risk factors and no methods of prevention.
Who Gets CFIDS?
CFIDS was once thought to occur among middle-class white women in their 30s. It is now known that the disease cuts across racial, ethnic, age and socioeconomic lines and can affect anyone. The majority of diagnosed cases are women, age 25 to 45.
However, it is believed that CFIDS is much more widespread, and that the 500,000 diagnosed cases in the United States represent only a portion of the true numbers of people suffering from it.
Learn More About CFIDS
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Home Page.