December 5, 2002
People with the condition can feel very sick. And chronic fatigue affects people of all cultural and economic backgrounds.
"It feels like you have the worst flu you've ever had in your life - almost daily," says Chronic Fatigue Patient Eileen Holderman.
Holderman is describing chronic fatigue syndrome . She's been dealing with it for more than eight years. "My symptoms fluctuate in severity each day and it makes planning for anything in life very difficult." It also makes it hard for doctors to diagnose the problem. until now, doctors have had to rely on patients' symptoms.
They can only diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome if a patient has had four of the following symptoms for at least 6 months:
A lot of doctors simply chalk these symptoms up to depression.
"The internist typically says, I did all your blood tests and everything looks fine here and we can't figure out what's wrong with you,” says Immunologist Dr. Susan Levine. “You must be depressed, go out and get a job, are you and your husband planning on having a baby, etc."
But a report in Smithsonian magazine says the CDC has found a gene that is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. And a simple blood test may be available in the next few years.
Larry Katzenstein wrote the Smithsonian article. "The hope is by using this test if a person is suspected of having this illness this is like a quick way of telling if indeed they do or not."
"I think it definitely validates it because the genetics gives us more of a objective basis of dealing with it and whether future generations will come down with it," said Dr. Levine.
It may also make doubters recognize chronic fatigue as a real, physical illness.
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