California Capital CFIDS Association

More Information About CFIDS

California Capital CFIDS Association

How Is CFIDS Diagnosed?

Despite a decade of research, there is still no definitive diagnostic test for CFIDS.

According to the CFS case definition published in the 12/15/94 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, diagnosing CFIDS requires a thorough medical examination and laboratory tests to identify underlying or contributing conditions that require treatment. Clinically evaluated, unexplained chronic fatigue can be classified as chronic fatigue syndrome if the patient meets both the following criteria:

1. Clinically evaluated, unexplained persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is of new or definite onset (i.e., not lifelong), is not the result of ongoing exertion, is not substantially alleviated by rest, and results in substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social or personal activities.

2. The concurrent occurrence of four or more of the following symptoms: substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness; headaches of a new type, pattern or severity; unrefreshing sleep; and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours. These symptoms must have persisted or recurred during six or more consecutive months of illness and must not have pre-dated the fatigue.

How Is CFIDS Treated?

Treatment for CFIDS is intended primarily to relieve specific symptoms. Sleep disorders, pain, gastrointestinal difficulties, allergies and depression are symptoms which can often be relieved through the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Persons with this illness may have unusual responses to medications, so extremely low dosages should be tried first and gradually increased as appropriate.

Lifestyle changes, including increased rest, reduced stress, dietary restrictions, nutritional supplementation and minimal exercise also are frequently recommended. Supportive therapy, such as counseling, can help to identify and develop effective coping strategies.

Who Gets CFIDS?

CFIDS strikes people of all ages, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Most diagnosed cases in the United States are women between the ages of 25 and 45, but CFIDS afflicts men, women and children of all ages.

How Many People Have CFIDS?

Carefully designed studies have yielded minimum estimates that at least 200,000 to 500,000 adults in the U.S. have CFIDS. CFIDS, one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses of our time, is at least as common as multiple sclerosis.

Prevalence studies of the illness among children and teenagers have not been done. Many cases of CFIDS among youth and adults remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Do PWCs Get Better?

The course of this illness varies greatly. Some people recover, some cycle between periods of relatively good health and illness and some gradually worsen over time. Others neither get worse nor better, while some improve gradually but never fully recover.

The CDC is conducting a long-term study of PWCs to learn more about the course of illness. CDC investigators have reported that the greatest chance of recovery appears to be within the first five years of illness, although individuals may recover at any stage of illness. Investigators have also found an apparent difference in recovery rates based upon type of onset. PWCs with sudden onset reported recovery nearly twice as often as those with gradual onset. This study is ongoing and observations about the course of illness are likely to change as more data is collected.

This information is an abridged version of "Understanding CFIDS," a comprehensive, 16-page booklet about CFIDS published by The CFIDS Association of America. One copy of the booklet is provided to any person requesting information about CFIDS from the Association. Additional copies of the booklet (available for $1.00 each) may be ordered by calling the Resource Line at (704)365-2343.

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