When Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) first made its appearance, the condition was greeted with a distinct lack of sympathy.This is evident from the sobriquet ‘Yuppie Flu,’ which reflected the beliefs that the condition mainly affected affluent people of working age, and that it was a form of malingering to escape the rat race of the late 1980’s. CFS was also unkindly dubbed ‘Shirker’s Syndrome,’ and it’s only in recent years that it has been accepted as a valid medical diagnosis.
20 years on from the ‘Yuppie Flu’ days, the causes of CFS remain unknown to a certain extent, although doctors have identified potential causes of the condition, which can be very debilitating. Suffers report symptoms such as persistent chronic fatigue, loss of concentration and problems with short term memory impairment, muscle and/ or joint pain, tender lymph nodes, headaches and depression. The condition can continue for years, leaving patients unable to function at a normal level and virtually housebound.
Many people who are later diagnosed with CFS have previously had some sort of viral infection. If this infection has damafed the immune system, the symptoms will continue when the infection has cleared. Or the increased activity in the immune system as it fights infection may cause an inactive virus to become active once again, causing further trauma to the immune system, and a general feeling of illness. Around 80% of CFS cases manifest as sudden onset after an infection. *
At the time of writing, research has been unable to link CFS with specific infections, but some research has linked CFS to the Epstein-Barr Virus. (EBV)
Stress can be a contributary factor in many chronic conditions. Low levels of the stress hormone cortisol can make it difficult to deal with physical stresses such as infection, or mental stresses. This can exacerbate the symptoms of CFS. Personal circumstances, combined with outside stress factors may make some people more prone to CFS than others, although medical opinion is that CFS has physiological causes, and is not primarily caused by pshychological factors.
While CFS is now a described medical condition, researchers have not managed to pinpoint definite causes. Genetics may play a part, as some people with CFS have been found to have genetic abnormalities, but there is no conclusive evidence one way or another at the time of writing. Research also indicates that allergies and hypersensitivity may influence whether someone will contract CFS, but again, nothing has been proven. It seems that, for the time being at least, CFS and its causes must remain shrouded in mystery.