Chronic fatigue syndrome affects thousands of people worldwide but is often challenging to diagnose, since there are no definitive tests or markers of the condition. Diagnosis is mainly based on observation of a patient’s pattern of symptoms over a period of time. Some of the factors of this condition that impact on patients include:
Chronic fatigue syndrome has long been recognised as an illness by the scientific and medical faculty. However, knowledge about the syndrome among society in general is somewhat lacking, which places a psychological and social burden on affected individuals. The problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome are not generally understood or accepted by wider society, which can leave the sufferer prone to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder and suicidal tendencies.
The patient–physician relationship can also be challenging in the case of chronic fatigue syndrome, due to the fact that the syndrome is difficult to diagnose. This can place a strain on the relationship between doctor and patient, with the doctor reluctant to confirm a diagnosis and the patient at risk of losing faith in their practitioner. People with chronic fatigue syndrome often seek multiple opinions from experts before their diagnosis is confirmed.
Chronic fatigue syndrome leads to symptoms of persistent fatigue that cannot be resolved with adequate rest or sleep. This can affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities and fulfil their responsibilities at work. As a result, a person with chronic fatigue syndrome may have an increased rate of work absenteeism.
Although chronic fatigue syndrome is known to be disabling, there is little research into its impact on the nation’s economy. One study published in 2004, estimated a total annual loss in work labour productivity in the USA of $9.1 billion among individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, representing about $20,000 per sufferer. In addition, the healthcare costs involved in treating and providing support for people have an impact on the national economy.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc