Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), sometimes called immune dysfunction syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (in Europe), is not a new disorder. In the 19th century the term neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, was applied to symptoms resembling CFS. In the 1930s through the 1950s, outbreaks of disease marked by prolonged fatigue were reported in the United States and many other countries. Beginning in the early- to mid-1980s, interest in chronic fatigue syndrome was revived by reports in America and other countries of various outbreaks of long-term debilitating fatigue.
Unexplained chronic fatigue describes fatigue that lasts for more than 6 months, impairs normal activities, and has no identifiable medical or psychological problems to account for it. In addition to fatigue, people may complain of other problems, such as difficulty with memory or concentration, headaches, or sore muscles or joints.
The symptoms of CFS may be categorized as follows:
Although the exact causes of CFS are not known, researchers think infection, genetics, hormonal imbalances, and chemical toxins play roles in different patients.
Blockmans D, Persoons P, Van Houdenhove B, Bobbaers H. Does methylphenidate reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome? Am J Med. 2006;119:e23-30.
Fuller-Thomson E, Nimigon J. Factors associated with depression among individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome: findings from a nationally representative survey. Fam Pract. 2008;25:414-422.
Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier, 2007.
Haig-Ferguson A, Tucker P, Eaton N, Hunt L, Crawley E. Memory and attention problems in children with CFS/ME. Arch Dis Child. 2008 Nov 11 [Epub ahead of print].
Hampton T. Researchers find genetic clues to chronic fatigue syndrome. JAMA. 2006;295(21):2466-2467.
Kerr JR. Gene profiling of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2008;10:482-491.
Knoop H, Stulemeijer M, de Jong LW, Fiselier TJ, Bleijenberg G. Efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome: long-term follow-up of a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2008;121:e619-e625.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy): diagnosis and management of CFS/ME in adults and children. August 2007.
Price JR, Mitchell E, Tidy E, Hunot V. Cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. July 2008(3):CD001027.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885