A New Name for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

February 27, 2015 8:40 PM

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Ever since it was first given its name, in 1988, the condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome has been trivialized by doctors and laypeople alike, dismissed as mere malingering. So it felt momentous, earlier this month, when the Institute of Medicine released an exhaustively documented report announcing that CFS—also called, in some circles, myalgic encephalomyelitis, because of its effects on the muscles and brain—is real. As the authors put it, “The primary message of this report is that ME/CFS is a serious, chronic, complex, multisystem disease that frequently and dramatically limits the activities of affected patients.” They suggested that it be given a new name: systemic exertion intolerance disease.

The report devotes hundreds of pages to assessing the medical literature on ME/CFS, ultimately judging it an organic disease—one rooted in the body rather than in the mind—with clear physiological markers, including diminished cardiovascular function, even after exercise; slowed information processi...

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