By: Researcher Taymur
It presents a constellation of vague symptoms to people with the condition, but there is no easy or fast way to diagnose it.
For decades, the condition has been mystifying medical experts.
But new research gives them hope that they will finally understand the mechanisms behind this disease and will soon be able to develop a new way to quickly diagnose it.
It is estimated that there are between 800,000 and 2,5 million Americans with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgia encephalomyelitis (ME).
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, only about 20 percent of those people were diagnosed.
In the hope of finding a way to quickly identify the disease, Stanford University researchers tested a variety of blood markers from 192 CFS patients called cytokines and compared them to 392 healthy patients taking cytokines.
Last week, they published their findings in the National Academy of Sciences ‘ Proceedings.
Cytokines are proteins that can affect the immune system and inflammation in the blood.
The more severe the symptoms of the disease, the higher the number of cytokines.
According to the authors of the study, 13 of the cytokines associated with the disease were pro-inflammatory.
“There has been a lot of controversy and confusion around ME / CFS even if it’s a real disease,” said Mark Davis, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology, and director of Stanford’s Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection. “Our findings clearly demonstrate that it is an inflammatory disease and provide a solid basis for a blood test for diagnosis.”
The disease can affect anyone, but people between the ages of 40 and 60 are more common. Women are more likely to develop the disease than men, and according to the CDC Trusted Source, it is more likely to occur in the Caucasian people.
ME / CFS symptoms include a lower level of activity, sleep problems, and a “post-exertional discomfort” where a person may “crash” after mental or physical exertion. People with ME / CFS may also have memory or thinking problems and symptoms worsen when they are standing or sitting up.
“I’ve seen the symptoms of this disease compounded by hundreds of patients,” said Dr. Jose Montoya, Stanford University’s Professor of Infectious Diseases and lead author of the study. “For 35 years now, it has been observed and discussed, sometimes with the burden of being described as a psychological condition. But the syndrome of chronic fatigue is not at all a figment of the imagination. This is real.
“According to the CDC, the disease also economically hits people, rising from $17 billion to $24 billion annually in medical bills and lost income.
Dr. Sybil Marsh, a family medicine physician at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said that if patients develop symptoms of the disease first, the possibility of a diagnostic test could result in huge changes.
“It’s not something you can go in and think you’ve got it right away,” Marsh said to Healthline.
She clarified that, before they can be treated, patients must have symptoms for at least six months.
“All the underlying signs and illnesses are also caused by something else,” she said.
Marsh said if patients could be treated earlier— within days or weeks of having symptoms— they wouldn’t face months of medical uncertainty.
Marsh also pointed out that knowing the mechanism behind the disease could mean finding a cure for the illness one day.
“We won’t know how to treat it until we know what the process is,” she said.
“The treatment is really about managing symptoms right now and coping with this disorder,” explained Marsh.
Individuals with ME / CFS are usually generally treated for symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and issues with concentration, but there is no medication treating the condition itself.
“Often people get depressed because of all the things they’ve got to lose and cut out of their lives while they’re waiting to get better,” said Marsh.
For now, the Stanford researchers hope their work will propel the medical field to solve this disease’s mystery. We also said further studies need to be done to confirm their results for larger study populations studied over longer periods of time.
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