Health authorities announced on Friday the initial comprehensive calculation of the total number of American adults who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome: 3.3 million individuals.
The number reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is higher than what previous studies have indicated, potentially due to the inclusion of patients experiencing long-term effects of COVID. Dr. Elizabeth Unger, a co-author of the report, stated that this condition is not uncommon.
Persistent fatigue is defined as experiencing extreme tiredness for a minimum of six months, which is not relieved by resting in bed. Individuals also describe feelings of pain, mental confusion, and other symptoms that may intensify following physical exertion, work, or other tasks. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this condition and currently, there are no medical tests or scans available for a rapid determination of diagnosis.
Medical professionals have been unable to determine a specific reason, but studies indicate that it may be due to the body’s extended and excessive response to an infection or other shock to the immune system.
Nearly four decades ago, the condition gained recognition after multiple cases were documented in Incline Village, Nevada and Lyndonville, New York. Certain medical professionals disregarded it as a psychological issue and dubbed it “yuppie flu.”
According to experts and patients, some doctors continue to maintain that viewpoint.
Hannah Powell, a 26-year-old woman from Utah, shared that doctors labeled her as a hypochondriac and attributed her symptoms to anxiety and depression, leaving her undiagnosed for five years.
The latest CDC study gathered information from a survey of 57,000 American adults between 2021 and 2022. Respondents were inquired about whether a medical practitioner had previously diagnosed them with myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome, and if they still experience the condition. Approximately 1.3% answered affirmatively to both inquiries.
According to CDC officials, this equated to approximately 3.3 million adults in the United States.
Other discoveries included a higher prevalence of the syndrome in women compared to men, and in white individuals compared to certain other racial and ethnic groups. These findings align with previous, smaller studies.
Nevertheless, the results also challenged the widely held belief that chronic fatigue syndrome primarily affects wealthy white women.
The study revealed that the gender gap was not as large as previously thought, and there was minimal disparity between white and Black individuals. Additionally, a larger proportion of impoverished individuals reported having it compared to affluent individuals.
The misunderstandings could be due to the fact that patients who receive a traditional diagnosis and treatment tend to have better access to healthcare. Additionally, they may be more readily believed when they report ongoing fatigue and inability to work. This was stated by Dr. Brayden Yellman, a specialist at the Bateman Horne Center located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The report was based on patients’ recollections and did not confirm their diagnoses using medical records.
Dr. Daniel Clauw, director of the University of Michigan’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, stated that while there may be some potential for overcounting, it is believed that only a small portion of individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome are actually diagnosed.
According to Clauw, it has never been a widely accepted diagnosis in the United States due to the lack of approved medications and treatment guidelines.
According to CDC officials, the count may incorporate individuals with long COVID who were experiencing extended fatigue.
Long COVID is broadly defined as chronic health problems weeks, months or years after an acute COVID-19 infection. Symptoms vary, but a subset of patients have the same problems seen in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
According to Yellman, we believe it is the same sickness. However, doctors are more likely to acknowledge long COVID and can diagnose it at a faster rate.
Powell, a patient of Yellman’s, was a student athlete in high school who fell ill while on a trip to Belize before her senior year. Initially diagnosed with malaria, she appeared to recover. However, she began experiencing chronic fatigue, insomnia, and frequent bouts of vomiting. As a result, she had to give up playing sports and struggled with her academic work.
After a period of five years, she received a diagnosis of chronic fatigue and found some level of stability with consistent treatments of fluids and medications. She successfully completed her studies at the University of Utah and currently holds a position at an organization dedicated to aiding victims of domestic violence.
She mentioned that receiving care is still difficult.
Powell stated that when she visits the emergency room or another doctor, she doesn’t mention her chronic fatigue syndrome. Instead, she mentions having long COVID and is usually believed right away.
The Science and Educational Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides support to the Associated Press Health and Science Department. The AP is responsible for all of the content.