Chronic fatigue syndrome is more common than some past studies suggest, CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome in the United States, estimating that approximately 3.3 million adults have the condition. This figure is larger than previously suggested, and may be influenced by patients experiencing prolonged exhaustion as a result of long COVID.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by severe exhaustion lasting at least six months, accompanied by symptoms such as pain, brain fog, and post-exertional malaise. Despite its prevalence, there is currently no cure and no standardized diagnostic test for the condition.

The origins of chronic fatigue syndrome date back nearly 40 years, with clusters of cases reported in Incline Village, Nevada, and Lyndonville, New York. Initial dismissals of the condition as “yuppie flu” and psychosomatic have perpetuated lingering societal and medical misconceptions.

A recent CDC survey of 57,000 U.S. adults in 2021 and 2022 found that chronic fatigue syndrome is more common in women than men and in white people compared to some other racial and ethnic groups. However, the report contradicts previous notions that the condition primarily affects affluent white women. Dr. Brayden Yellman of the Bateman Horne Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, attributed this misperception to traditional biases in healthcare access and diagnosis.

While the CDC’s estimate of 3.3 million adults with chronic fatigue syndrome may include individuals with long COVID, the overlap between the two conditions warrants further study.

Historically, the lack of approved treatments and standardized diagnostic guidelines have contributed to the underdiagnosis and undercounting of chronic fatigue syndrome cases. However, recent strides in recognizing long COVID have led to greater awareness and understanding of similar symptoms associated with chronic fatigue.

The report underscores the challenges faced by individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, such as the struggle to access appropriate care and be believed by medical professionals. Hannah Powell, a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome, emphasized the importance of validating patients’ experiences and providing adequate support and treatment.

In conclusion, the CDC’s report sheds light on the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome in the United States and serves as a call to action for improved recognition, research, and healthcare initiatives for individuals with this condition.

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