Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an emerging illness characterized by debilitating fatigue (experienced as exhaustion and
extremely poor stamina), neurological problems, and a variety of flu-like symptoms. The illness is also known as chronic fatigue
immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), and outside of the USA is usually known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). In the past
the syndrome has been known as chronic Epstein-Barr virus (CEBV).
The core symptoms include excessive fatigue,
general pain, mental fogginess, and often gastro-intestinal problems. Many other symptoms will also be present, however they
will typically be different among different patients. These include: fatigue following stressful activities; headaches; sore
throat; sleep disorder; abnormal temperature; and others.
The degree of severity can differ widely among patients,
and will also vary over time for the same patient. Severity can vary between getting unusually fatigued following stressful
events, to being totally bedridden and completely disabled. The symptoms will tend to wax and wane over time. This variation,
in addition to the fact that the cause of the disease is not yet known, makes this illness difficult to diagnose.
cause of the illness is not yet known. Current theories are looking at the possibilities of neuroendocrine dysfunction, viruses,
environmental toxins, genetic predisposition, or a combination of these. For a time it was thought that Epstein-Barr Virus
(EBV), the cause of mononucleosis, might cause CFS but recent research has discounted this idea. The illness seems to prompt
a chronic immune reaction in the body, however it is not clear that this is in response to any actual infection -- this may
only be a dysfunction of the immune system itself.
A recent concept promulgated by Prof. Mark Demitrack is
that CFS is a generalized condition which may have any of several causes (in the same way that the condition called high blood
pressure is not caused by any one single factor). It *is* known that stressors, physical or emotional, seems to make CFS worse.
Some current research continues to investigate possible viral causes including HHV-6, other herpes viruses,
enteroviruses, and retroviruses. Additionally, co-factors (such as genetic predisposition, stress, environment, gender, age,
and prior illness) appear to play an important role in the development and course of the illness.
observers have noted that CFS seems often to be "triggered" by some stressful event, but in all likelihood the condition was
latent beforehand. Some people will appear to get CFS following a viral infection, or a head injury, or surgery, excessive
use of antibiotics, or some other traumatic event. Yet it's unlikely that these events on their own could be a primary cause.