Researchers Pinpoint Chronic Fatigue Sufferers Who Are More Likely to Recover
Dec. 14, 1999 (Cleveland) -- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is more likely
to improve in patients who have less unclear thinking and fewer symptoms that
seem to be unrelated to CFS. Those who improved were also more likely to have
infrequent awakening, to sleep fewer hours, and to be married. That's according
to a prospective study that appears in the November/December issue of the
journal Archives of Family Medicine. Individuals who had more than two
symptoms not usually used to define CFS and who never thought clearly were the
least likely to experience improvement in their fatigue.
Lead author Arthur J. Hartz, MD, PhD, and colleagues analyzed questionnaires
completed by 199 subjects aged 18 years or older who had unexplained, or
idiopathic, fatigue for at least 6 months. Most patients were women, were aged
30-55, and were college graduates. At one time, more than 90% of these subjects
had received some treatment by a physician for their fatigue, but at the time
of follow-up, only 52% were still receiving treatment.
Symptoms were identified and broken down into two groups. The first scale
consisted of symptoms that were also used to define CFS. They included sore
throat, tender neck or underarm lymph nodes, muscle aches, joint pain, and
headaches. The second scale consisted of symptoms not included in the current
definition of CFS, including backache, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation,
other stomach or intestinal discomfort, mild fever or chills, unexplained
muscle weakness, and dizziness.
Surprisingly, the more tired subjects were at the start of the study, the
greater the improvement in their fatigue after two years. Also associated with
greater improvements in fatigue were more frequent clarity of thought, fewer
second-scale symptoms, less frequent nighttime awakenings, current married
status, and fewer hours slept. Less improvement in fatigue symptoms was
associated with unemployment, more second-scale symptoms, frequent nighttime
awakening, and relation to someone with a psychological problem.
"It is likely that for some patients the fatigue is intrinsically linked
to clear thinking, depression, muscle aches, and joint pain. The severity of
each of these symptoms varies with the severity of the fatigue," concludes
Hartz, who is with the department of family medicine at the University of Iowa
in Iowa City.
- Patients are most likely to improve if they have no symptoms that are not
usually associated with chronic fatigue syndrome and think clearly more often,
according to a study.
- Those symptoms not used to define chronic fatigue syndrome include
backache, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, other stomach or intestinal
discomfort, mild fever or chills, unexplained muscle weakness, and
- Surprisingly, the more tired patients were at the beginning of the
experiment, the greater improvement they experienced after two years.