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Energy Crisis

Saturday 22 June 2019


From Massachusetts General Hospital's Proto magazine:


Chronic Fatigue Hero

Energy Crisis

Clinical Research
June 17, 2019
© 2019 Massachusetts General Hospital.

Those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome often face years of doubt from their medical providers. But now the physical hallmarks of the disease are coming into focus.

KATIE HART HAS BEEN sick most of her life, but it took more than three decades for her to find out what was behind her debilitating fatigue, persistent headaches, muscle pain and dizziness. During her adolescence, medical tests didn’t point to any clear answers, and her symptoms were dismissed as hypochondria. It wasn’t until 15 years later, in 1988, that she was diagnosed, first with fibromyalgia and then with chronic fatigue syndrome. “But even those names were met with more resistance than validation,” Hart says. She was later misdiagnosed with depression and treated as a psychiatric patient. But the medications she was prescribed only made her feel worse. It wasn’t until Hart was in her mid-thirties and living in the United Kingdom that she received a diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis, a disease that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most medical institutions now recognize as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS.

Hart’s experience is typical for this condition, which has remained enigmatic since it first drew widespread attention in the 1980s. Because the symptoms of ME/CFS can sometimes be vague and overlap with those of other common diseases, getting to a diagnosis is a painstaking process that largely involves excluding other conditions. There have been no offical blood tests or other diagnostic tools, which means that physicians sometimes turn to psychological explanations. Often enough, as in Hart’s case, they point to depression or overwork as the likely culprits.

Even today, ME/CFS resists easy categorization. Hart’s symptoms came on gradually, but in many cases a single trigger sets the disease in motion. It might be an infection such as influenza or mononucleosis, the physical trauma of a car accident or surgery or psychological trauma, such as the death of a loved one. A cascade of symptoms follows and lasts for months or years. Unrelenting fatigue is always one of them, but a long list of others includes enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, impaired short-term memory, poor concentration, unrefreshing sleep and joint pain. It often causes “orthostatic intolerance,” in which sitting or standing interferes with blood pressure and blood flow to the brain. And patients suffer from a severe crash in energy levels lasting days or weeks after physical activity—which may, in some cases, involve nothing more than leaving the house to do an errand or walking to the bathroom.


Full article…



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