Researchers say 85 percent to 90 percent of the people living with chronic fatigue are undiagnosed. Symptoms of CFS include fatigue, muscle pain, insomnia and impaired memory.
It's a difficult disease to diagnose, and there's no cure. But for the 1.3 million Americans who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS for short, a drug commonly used in cancer patients may help them get back a bit of their former selves.
At work, Toni Cueto is an overachiever. "I'd always get my work done," she says," and ask for more work." But five years ago, she lost her energy and her desire to work. After failing her real estate exam, she knew something was wrong.
"I just didn't have that 'Get up and go,' that I normally have," Cueto says. Through extensive testing, doctors diagnosed her with chronic fatigue syndrome.
There is no known cause or cure for CFS. Doctor now think the condition is linked to a decrease in red blood cells.
"Because the red blood cell transports oxygen and glucose to the cells, it's vitally important in providing these nutrients. Without it, we feel fatigued," says biobehavioral researchers.
Researchers are studying the effectiveness of the drug Procrit to help more patients. The drug is typically used in cancer patients. In CFS patients, Procrit raises red blood cell volume by triggering a hormone in the kidneys, "Some people have shown remarkable improvement and have gone back to work, and in others it's been less effective."
It's working for Cueto. She got her real estate license, and she's already doubled last year's sales. She says, "I've got my life back. I'm working full time. I'm enjoying life."