Wed
Nov
19
2014

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Real According to New Study

chronic fatigue

Some health conditions are difficult to diagnose simply because it’s hard for a doctor to truly understand what a patient is going through. Conditions that involve pain often fall into this trap. For example, despite all the amazing advances in modern medicine, patients and doctors still often rely on a somewhat archaic pain chart in order to communicate pain severity. Because pain is so personal and subjective, the legitimacy of a person’s condition can often be called into question. Sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) fall victim to this confusion as well, often being labeled as hypochondriacs. The CDC defines chronic fatigue as “profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity.” However, many believe that the syndrome simply doesn’t exist or that it’s being overly misdiagnosed. Indeed, nobody knows what causes CFS. A new discovery may curb some skepticism, however.

Chronic Fatigue Sufferers Have Different Brain Makeup

According to the Stanford Medicine News Center, researchers at Stanford University used imaging technology to compare brain scans of patients with chronic fatigue to those of healthy people of the same age and gender. Twenty-nine people were scanned total. First, the researchers found that CFS patients’ brains contained less white matter, which is the material in the brain responsible for carrying information throughout its different parts. This finding wasn’t necessarily unexpected, as many researchers have speculated that chronic fatigue is related to inflammation. Inflammation, possibly due to a viral infection, can cause white matter to be reduced.

Researchers also found that the CFS sufferers had a “consistent abnormality” in a nerve tract located in the right hemispheres of their brains. The tract, known as the right arcuate fasciculus, connects the temporal lobe with frontal lobe. Interestingly, the more abnormal this nerve tract appeared, the worse a patient’s CFS symptoms seemed to be. A “standard psychometric test” was used to evaluate each patient’s fatigue levels.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

CFS is often scrutinized because it can appear to an outsider as though a sufferer is just lazy, unmotivated or not getting enough sleep. Others object to the premise of “chronic fatigue” being a medical condition in and of itself, instead arguing that the fatigue is being caused by a known health problem whose diagnosis has been missed. Regardless of what one believes concerning CFS, there are a combination of symptoms that unarguably warrant seeing a doctor. They include:

  • Loss of concentration or memory
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Headaches that come in a pattern
  • Extreme exhaustion that lasts over 24 hours
  • Unexplained muscle pain
  • Pain that travels throughout the body without redness or swelling
  • Unrefreshing sleep

This new study shows that chronic fatigue could be a disease of it’s own merit, but there’s no doubt that prolonged exhaustion could also indicate infection or psychological disorder.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Bottom Line

The Stanford study was small, but it could be considered a breakthrough that will pave the way for future research and understanding of CFS. It’s important to note, however, that the results of this research do not lead to any new suggestions for treatment. People who suffer from prolonged tiredness and pain now have some science to legitimize their condition; however, the treatment options remain the same for now.

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