Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Affects Millions
> 11/8/2006 10:14:29 AM

Far from being a convenient excuse for hypochondriacs to avoid responsibility, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a legitimate disease challenging millions of Americans every day, and the majority of those affected are not aware of its presence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the condition in a new awareness campaign on Friday, creating a separate web page dedicated to understanding the condition and encouraging those who suffer to seek appropriate treatment.

The warning signs of CFS are all too common: profound exhaustion, sleep difficulties, and deficits in concentration. These can easily be confused with depression or blamed on outside factors such as an excessive workload, but many additional symptoms are strictly physical. Flu-like afflictions such as headache, sore throat and unrelieved muscle pain often arise due to the condition, whose causes have yet to be strictly defined. Many in the healthcare field believe that personal trauma or illness can trigger a wave of CFS that will linger long after the effects of the initial event are gone. CFS also weakens the immune system, leading to a greater susceptibility to unrelated illness. By very conservative estimates, at least one million Americans find themselves trapped in this destructive cycle, and many remain unsure abour how best to seek relief.

Doctors long dismissed the condition as psychological in origin, believing that sufferers unconsciously inflicted it on themselves through negative thinking and compounded stress. While these issues certainly play a role in diagnosis and can intensify the ills associated with CFS, some now entertain the possibility of a viral  immune infection as the root cause. Other potential sources are immune system dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, and dietary deficiencies. The only recommended remedies are the usual: regular exercise, balanced diet and sufficient rest. Antidepressants may be prescribed, but they will most likely not cover all symptoms. Of course, due to marketing potential, one may cynically expect the arrival of a new cure-all medication for CFS, but any moves toward effective treatment will be welcome. The first step is recognizing it as a disease and a considerable public health risk and responding accordingly with further research.

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