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NIH to Study Mysterious Chronic Fatigue Disorder

  • Jessica Berman

FILE - Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, chair of the Committee on Diagnostic Criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (l) during an open meeting at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, Feb. 10, 2015.

FILE - Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, chair of the Committee on Diagnostic Criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (l) during an open meeting at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, Feb. 10, 2015.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has announced a study of chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, a mysterious condition that can leave sufferers exhausted and bed-ridden.

NIH officials say they want to find a cause and treatment for CFS. For now, doctors remain baffled because there is no test to confirm a diagnosis of the disorder. Exhaustion, a hallmark of CFS, can be a symptom of many conditions. And people with CFS often have other health problems.

However, the head of NIH, Francis Collins, says with all of the genetic tools now available, researchers should be able to identify the cause, which could help lead to an effective treatment.

Women are diagnosed with chronic fatigue four times more often than men. Bed rest doesn’t help alleviate the symptoms, which can include weakness, headache, sore joints, swollen lymph nodes and impaired cognitive function.

In 2009, researchers announced that CFS appears to have a genetic basis. At that time, experts predicted it would take a while to identify the biological pathways involved.

An estimated one million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, costing thousands of dollars a year in lost work and productivity.

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