Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Living with chronic fatigue
Imagine feeling profoundly lousy for months, even years at a stretch. On many days, you can't even get out of bed. Sleep doesn't help. You go to the doctor, get tests, but a diagnosis remains elusive - and treatments incomplete. That's what life can be like for people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
More than one million Americans have CFS, a debilitating illness researchers have been studying for some 20 years. There are few clues to what causes it (infectious agents? toxins?). And many questions (how do you treat CFS? Isn't it really just a 'fake' illness?).
Now, researchers in California say chronic fatigue syndrome may be linked to the presence of enteroviruses -- viral microorganisms that reside in your gut. Using endoscopies, researchers analyzed stomach tissue biopsy samples from patients with CFS - and found more than 80% of them had high levels of viruses in their digestive system. (All 165 patients had gastrointestinal complaints as part of their CFS litany of symptoms.)
Does this mean you should run to the doctor and demand a test? Not yet.
"Anybody who has chronic fatigue doesn't need to run out to their doctor and get an upper endoscopy, explains Dr. James King, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Even though this is very helpful and promising, it's not to the point that the treatment for chronic fatigue will change soon."
Do you think you might have chronic fatigue syndrome? If you have 4 or more of the following symptoms you may want to get checked:
* severe fatigue 6+ months or longer
*swollen lymph nodes
*muscle & joint pain
*poor quality sleep
While there is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome in sight, researchers see this as an important jumping-off point: They can now study how these viruses behave, how to detect them, and how to kill them with anti-viral medications. The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.
Have you lived with chronic fatigue syndrome? For how long? What were your best days and worst days like?
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