THE CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME CONTROVERSY
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, better known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), has a controversial history. Because physicians have been unable to pinpoint a cause for CFS, those who suffer from the condition have had a difficult time convincing their healthcare providers that they are in fact suffering from a medical condition. Some have even described the condition as "mass hysteria."
Regardless of the source of CFS, clinicians have at least concluded that a set of symptoms can be applied to the disease, and that the disease at least should be treated in some fashion. From there, however, the medical world appears at a loss to come to any consensus on treatment.
CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME DEFINED
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, CFS is defined as extreme fatigue that is, has lasted for more than 6 months, cannot be relieved by bed rest, and is severe enough to limit participation in some daily activities. The list of associated symptoms includes forgetfulness, confusion, muscle and joint pain (often severe), mild fever, and more.
Perhaps the confusion about CFS stems from the similarities of symptoms from other known diseases. For example, the severe reduction in physical activity caused by CFS resembles other fatiguing medical conditions, such as AIDS, lupus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even Lyme disease. Moreover, those with CFS may respond very differently to their symptoms. While some patients can lead relatively normal lives, others will become bed-ridden and unable to care for themselves.
Because of the confusion surrounding CFS, the Center for Disease Control recommends that people with symptoms resembling those of CFS consult a physician to rule out other illnesses and the possibility that medication is not causing side effects that mimic symptoms of CFS.
TREATMENTS FOR CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
The prognosis for recovery from CFS is not all positive. Many people do not fully recover from CFS even with treatment. However, some therapies have proven effective in managing symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy have both shown moderate effectiveness for many people in several studies. However, more work needs to be done.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome continues to baffle efforts to determine its causes and effective treatments. However, a variety of treatments is available for managing symptoms and the psychological fallout from the disease. I