There seems to be quite a lot of suspicion about the status of this troubling condition. However, it has long been recognized as an authentic disease syndrome by such highly reputable international medical textbooks as Harrisons and Cecil and Loeb. It is a diagnosis of exclusion, and there are sets of English and American criteria for its diagnosis, which are pretty similar. CFS can be a seriously disabling disorder, and can be troublesome for doctors to diagnose since it consists solely of symptoms (except for enlarged neck lymph glands, mild fever, inflamed throat). However, this does not prevent doctors diagnosing migraine, which consists solely of symptoms.
Precipitating factors: Glandular fever, other related viruses, anaphylactic episode, hormonal disorders, exposure to chemicals (toxic to the immune system (IS – some pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, synthetic foams, solvents, adhesives, biphenyls, urethane, resins, lacquers, vinyl chloride, and possibly the anaesthetic halothane), severe trauma, and stress.
Severe lethargy, sleep disturbances, poor mental concentration, poor short-term memory, mood disturbances (irritability, depression, panic attacks), night sweats, hot flushes, shivering attacks, chills, increased sensitivity to the cold, noise and light, palpitations, lightheadedness, ‘white-outs’, blurring of vision, headache, muscle and/or joint pains, poor balance and coordination, frequency of urine, cold extremities, reduced libido, early flu-like episodes: malaise, sore throat, enlarged lymph glands of the neck, aches and pains.
50% of CFS patients have an accompanying allergic illness. Intense research has yet to come up with a definitive test for CFS, but it does show that there are immune aberrations in the disease, symptoms being caused by the release of a cocktail of IS messenger molecules (cytokines). Management of CFS by psychiatrists usually focuses on depression, and this overall has not proved successful. Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a misnomer for CFS when pain dominates.
In my experience some 50% of CFS patients have an underlying allergy or allergies, so it is worth taking a diagnostic approach in that direction: foods, yeasts, mould vapours, and some chemical vapours (burnt gas vapours, traffic fumes, mould vapours, formaldehyde, polyester, vapours of solvents and adhesives, chemical plastic softeners etc.) being the main culprits.
Estimates vary between 4 per 2000 to 10,000 of the population. The cost to the Australian community is of the order of 200 million dollars a year, at least.
It is not uncommon for patients to present with only an itch, and no other symptoms. This is most frequently an allergy to candida yeast, or to dietary yeasts. Less commonly, it can be a food or dust mite.