Chronic Fatigue syndrome (CFS) began receiving lots of attention in the 1980's after a cluster of some 100 cases were reported in the Lake Tahoe area of California.
Questions arose in regard to whether the diffuse symptoms of this disease were a manifestation of one ailment, and whether or not this ailment just might be a new condition.
Now that some 20 years have passed we've gained some perspective and realize that CFS is the same syndrome as the one the Japanese know as killer cell syndrome and the same thing the British call myalgic encephalomyelitis.
In the States, CFS has been called Epstein-Barr virus syndrome, chronic mononucleosis, and the yuppie flu.
Real or Imagined?
Whatever you decide to call it, this is a debilitating but seldom life-threatening condition that seems to affect lots more women than men, and lots more adults than children.
In an effort to define what exactly this disease might be, CFS has gained two more monikers along the way: postviral fatigue syndrome, and chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome.
All these names describe the same catch-all label for symptoms that can't be otherwise classified or explained. And while many experts believe this is a real syndrome, just as many medical doctors remain unconvinced.
The first theory holds that the immune system is attacked by multiple infectious agents and/or chemicals provoking a counterattack. This counterattack takes a kind of continuous form, or a lasting state of activation.
According to this theory, victims of CFS have genetic differences which make them unable to rid themselves of common infectious agents that most people are able to fight off.
As a result of this continuous activated state, the immune system remains in high gear, in a constant state of combat against a continuing viral infection.
A second theory holds that CFS results from viruses that infect parts of the brain, resisting detection by standard diagnostic tests. New diagnostic techniques are being refined to test this concept.
Still a third theory claims that this syndrome is a muscle disease with fatigue a secondary symptom of muscle dysfunction.
This syndrome that has been called by so many names and has such varied symptoms dates back to at least the 1800's. For most of its existence, the key question about the syndrome was whether these symptoms represent a new disease or are just a collection of complaints with no clear cause or known etiology.
Many CFS sufferers who claim fatigue symptoms tested positive for the Epstein-Barr virus. This is not conclusive since many people exposed to this virus are symptom-free and not all those who are symptomatic are positive for the Epstein-Barr virus.
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