A number of people are diagnosed with the general label chronic fatigue syndrome. Seventy percent of people who suffer from chronic fatigue are women under age forty-five. Many of them may be misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue when, in fact, they are hypothyroid. In general, chronic fatigue is still a bit of a mystery, and much of the current research points to sleep deprivation, often with unrecognized sleep disorders as the main cause. This section briefly summarizes the accepted theories and definitions.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been around longer than you might think. In 1843, for example, a curious condition called fibrositis was described by doctors. It was characterized by symptoms similar to those now seen in fibromyalgia (chronic muscle and joint aches and pains) and CFS. The term rheumatism, now outdated, was frequently used as well to describe various aches and pains with no specific or identifiable origin.
What we now call CFS was once known as Epstein-Barr virus. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a mysterious virus, known as Epstein-Barr virus, was diagnosed in thousands of young, upwardly mobile professionals—at the time known as yuppies—the so-called baby boom generation. People called this condition the yuppie flu, yuppie virus, yuppie syndrome, and burnout syndrome. Many medical professionals were stumped by it, and many disregarded it as a phantom illness or psychosomatic illness, especially in women.
In the early 1980s, two physicians in Nevada who treated a number of patients who shared this curious condition (after a nasty winter flu had hit the region) identified it as chronic fatigue syndrome. This label is perhaps the most accurate (and the one that has stuck).
But there are other names for CFS such as the United Kingdom label, M.E., which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, as well as post-viral fatigue syndrome. CFS is also known as chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome (CFIDS), because it's now believed that CFS sufferers are immune suppressed, although this fact is still being debated. But for the purposes of this chapter I'll refer to the simpler label that seems to tell it like it is: chronic fatigue syndrome.
A lot of people with CFS have been misdiagnosed with various other diseases that share some of the symptoms we now define as CFS. These diseases include mononu-cleosis, multiple sclerosis, HIV-related illnesses, Lyme disease, post-polio syndrome, and lupus. If you have been diagnosed with any of these diseases, please take a look at the established symptom criteria for CFS outlined here. You may have been misdi-agnosed—an extremely common scenario. And, of course, hypothyroidism classically shares many CFS symptoms.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Thyroid?
The following symptoms can indicate chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as well as hypothyroidism, or thyrotoxicosis.
• An unexplained fatigue that is "new"
• Poor memory or concentration*
• Mild or low-grade fever
• Tenderness in the neck and underarm area (tenderness in the neck may occur with an enlarged thyroid gland)*
• A strange and new kind of headache you have never suffered from before
• You sleep but wake up unrefreshed*
• You feel tired, weak, and generally unwell for a good twenty-four hours after you have had even moderate exercise*
*Signs of hypothyroidism fSigns of thyrotoxicosis
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