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New Campaign Launched for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The fatigue that mounts from a long, hard week at work, or following an all-day bike ride can usually be quelled by a relaxing weekend or a quick nap. But for the one million Americans with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), there is no solace in that siesta.

There was a time when the mere mention of CFS gave some doctors and other skeptics an opportunity to dismiss CFS as an actual medical condition worthy of research dollars. No way, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who last week unveiled a new awareness campaign to educate the public about this disabling condition.
"CFS is a terrible illness that prevents many people from taking part in everyday activities and participating in the things they enjoy," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "Fortunately, there are therapies for CFS that can reduce much of the pain and suffering. For those to be helpful, we need to make sure people with this illness know they have it, and that's why this campaign is so important."

The campaign, called "Get Informed. Get Diagnosed. Get Help", is designed to increase awareness among the medical community and the general public.

People with CFS experience incapacitating fatigue, poor stamina, sleep difficulties, and problems with concentration and short-term memory. They can also have flu-like symptoms, joint pain, muscle pain, tender lymph nodes, sore throat and new headaches. These symptoms worsen during physical activity or mental stress.

There is no known cause and no diagnostic test. In fact, CFS can look like a lot of other conditions such as mononucleosis, chronic Lyme disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, primary sleep disorders, severe obesity and major depressive disorders. Medications can also cause side effects that mimic the symptoms of CFS. This can complicate a diagnosis.

But for now, the CDC recommends that your doctor consider a diagnosis of CFS if these two criteria are met:

  1. Unexplained, persistent fatigue that's not due to ongoing exertion, isn't substantially relieved by rest, is of new onset (not lifelong) and results in a significant reduction in previous levels of activity.
  2. Four or more of the following symptoms are present for six months or more:
  • Impaired memory or concentration
  • Postexertional malaise (extreme, prolonged exhaustion and sickness following physical or mental activity)
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Multijoint pain without swelling or redness
  • Headaches of a new type or severity
  • Sore throat that's frequent or recurring
  • Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
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