HealthDay News — Chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating illness affecting up to 2.5 million Americans, may soon get a new name and set of diagnostic criteria.
In a report released earlier this month, an independent panel of experts convened by the U.S. government called the illness a “legitimate” disease that features five main symptoms and should be taken seriously by physicians. In fact, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee behind the report is urging that chronic fatigue syndrome be renamed “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease,” to better reflect the seriousness of its effect on patients.
The IOM report lays out new diagnostic criteria to help streamline the process. According to the new report, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome suffer three core symptoms: (1) impaired ability to engage in pre-illness levels of activity that persists for more than six months and is accompanied by often-profound fatigue; (2) a worsening of these symptoms after any type of exertion, including physical or mental exercises or emotional stress; and (3) sleep that does not alleviate fatigue.
To diagnose someone with chronic fatigue syndrome, a physician also must find the person is suffering from one of two additional problems: impaired ability to think and/or inability to remain upright, with symptoms that improve when lying down.
A diagnosis also depends on these symptoms persisting for at least six months, and they must present at least half the time with moderate to severe intensity, the IOM panel concluded. Doctors also should treat symptoms even if the person hasn’t met the six-month timeframe for chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis, IOM committee chair Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, a professor of law and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville said during an IOM news conference.
Institute of Medicine. Report: Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness. February 10, 2015.