by TheAge.com; AAP
Reproduced from The Age.com (http://www.theage.com.au) November 3, 2006, with permission from Australian Associated Press (AAP). The scientific report it refers to is available in full text format online.
Women are no more likely to get Chronic Fatigue Syndrome than men, nor are neurotic types more prone, according to new myth-debunking Australian research. Scientists from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have discovered who is most likely to get the debilitating condition, and it has nothing to do with age, sex, personality traits, or mental health as many people thought.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is most commonly triggered by an acute illness, like glandular fever, and it is the severity of this illness that decides whether you will develop the syndrome, the research found.
The sicker you are at the beginning of the infection, the more likely it is to result in a prolonged illness, said UNSW infectious diseases specialist Andrew Lloyd. As far as we can see this is the only determinant of who is likely to get it.
The research team made its discovery by tracking the long-term health of individuals infected by three infections – the mosquito borne Ross River virus, Q fever bacterial infection, and Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever – in the New South Wales city of Dubbo.
Of the first 253 people investigated, about 10 percent developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a state affecting 100,000 Australians only diagnosed when the disabling tiredness persists for more than six months.
In these people, the acute infection has a hit and run effect on the brain that takes some time to repair. These three different bugs trigger this fatigue in 10 percent of people from moment one, of day one, of the acute infection, Professor Lloyd said.
After a year only 5 percent had the condition, and about 99 percent were better within two years without medical intervention. “While that’s still not good, there’s a notion in the community that people with chronic fatigue never get better,” he said.
The scientist said the research, published in the prestigious British Medical Journal*, also dispels several other myths surrounding the condition. “We looked at age, sex, education, personality style, and psychiatric health, and it turns out that none of those things predict the outcome,” he said.
“It’s commonly believed that more women get it than men and that these people are neurotic, obsessive, and unduly focused on symptoms and this is their problem, not chronic fatigue. We found no evidence to support any of this.” He said the syndrome was misunderstood because sufferers commonly delayed seeking help for a year, by which time several other secondary problems like weight gain, depression, and marital difficulties had set in.