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Misdiagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

Chronic fatigue syndrome goes by many different names, such as systemic exertional intolerance disease, which describes its effects on the body, and myalgic encephalomyelitis, which refers to the systems of the body it affects.

CFS causes extreme fatigue unrelated to any identifiable medical condition that lasts for at least six months. Symptoms may intensify following mental or physical exertion. It can occur at any age and severely restrict one’s work capability and lifestyle. Misdiagnosis of CFS is common.

What causes chronic fatigue syndrome?

Scientists do not yet understand the underlying causes of CFS, but they have identified some factors that may contribute to it. According to the Mayo Clinic, CFS seems to occur more frequently following an emotional or physical trauma. Some people develop symptoms after recovering from a severe viral infection.

CFS sometimes develops in the presence of hormonal imbalances or immune system impairments. Whether these are causes, effects or unrelated coincidences is not yet clear from research.

What are the reasons for misdiagnosis?

Part of the reason for the misdiagnosis of CFS is that symptoms mimic those of other conditions, especially autoimmune conditions or sleep disorders. Doctors run tests checking for these conditions and may not know what to conclude when the tests come back negative. At this point, according to Healthline, physicians may give up and conclude the patient is malingering or has a psychological problem. They may refer the patient to a psychiatrist, only for him or her to be unable to find anything wrong either.

More research may eventually uncover causes and testing markers for CFS. In the meantime, patients should try to be assertive and persistent in finding adequate medical help.


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