Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Real?

If you’ve gotten eye-rolls and accusations of being “just lazy” when you tell friends you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you’re not alone. Now known as “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease” in the annals of medicine, this syndrome, which is twice as common in women, “remains a complicated, controversial disease,” says Corinne Menn, DO. “Patients have real symptoms—a sudden onset of fatigue, often after a recent infection—but a lack of objective findings makes diagnosis difficult.” As opposed to tiredness at the day’s end or after a fitful sleep, the fatigue is described as severe and overwhelming, interfering with daily life. Sleep isn’t refreshing; tasks are draining. In addition, the patient may have cognitive impairment or abnormal blood pressure, says Dr. Menn. Fibromyalgia, a condition of chronic pain and fatigue, shares many symptoms with SEID. Out of 1,000 primary-care visits, 8.5 percent will report disabling fatigue; but only 15 percent of those will meet the criteria for SEID or fibromyalgia. “Other causes, like thyroid disease or immune dysfunction, need to be ruled out,” says Dr. Menn. “But if the provider isn’t addressing symptoms, patients should seek experts trained to deal with them.”