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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

INTRODUCTION TO CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

What is CFS?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome, chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome.

The disease is characterized by a severe, prolonged fatigue lasting for more than six months. Patients complain of extreme exhaustion; they tire easily in the course of normal activities, and may even be unable to perform normal tasks. Fatigue is accompanied by a number of other symptoms: neurocognitive impairments (memory loss, difficulty in concentrating), muscle pain, headaches, unrefreshing sleep, sore throat, persistent low grade fever, enlarged lymph nodes.

CFS shares overlapping symptomology with several diseases. Before making a diagnosis of CFS, other specific illnesses in which fatigue is the core symptom (such as hypothyroidism, anemia, Lyme disease, lupus, diabetes, cancer…) must be excluded.

Who gets CFS?

CFS affects between 0.1 and 0.4 percent of the population. Anybody can get CFS, however women are affected more frequently than men by a ratio of 4:1. People exposed to poor working conditions, or stressful work, seem to face a higher risk for CFS; however stress alone does not cause CFS. The most common age of onset is between 20 and 40 years. CFS can also occur in children and adolescents.

 

What causes CFS?

There is a long history of medical interest in CFS, and in the last decade an increasing amount of studies have been done to unravel the pathogenesis of CFS. However, at this time the etiology is not known and no unique pathological abnormalities have been identified.

More and more evidence points towards a combination of factors (genetic, infectious, environmental, etc.) being important in the development of chronic immune dysfunction, the cardinal finding in all CFS patients.

Over the past several years, scientists at R.E.D. Laboratories have been unraveling the biochemical and molecular mysteries surrounding CFS. The result of these efforts has been to create a number of objective clinical laboratory assays that can assist the physician in not only making the diagnosis of CFS, but can also help in staging the severity of disease and monitor the effect of a therapy.

Immune dysregulation is a hallmark of CFS

The involvement of elastase in the pathogenesis of the disease indicates that CFS is to a large extent an inflammatory disorder. The underlying cause of inflammation, however, remains unclear. Among the factors that could contribute to the onset or maintenance of a chronic inflammatory condition, R.E.D. Laboratories scientists are particularly interested in the consequences of intestinal dysfunctions, as well as in the role of chronic infections and/or persistent viral infections (see dedicated pages).