by Namitha Kumar on  May 11, 2015 at 1:42 PM Health Watch
World Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Day 2015
World Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Day 2015 is marked every year on May 12, which is also the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing. This day has been designated as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness day as she probably suffered from this condition.

Florence Nightingale was almost bedridden with an illness resembling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Though there was no diagnostic label back then, the symptoms she experienced was almost like CFS. Despite the health hurdles she faced, Florence Nightingale was the pioneer of the Red Cross Movement and served as an inspiring army nurse. Hence, this day is marked on her birthday. The awareness day came into being from 1992.

This is a significant day as there is little awareness on this condition in the medical communities and among public health professionals. This is a day to show solidarity and support for people suffering from Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). People across the globe wear blue in honor of patients suffering from this condition.

Some of the celebrities suffering from CFIDS include Cher, Randy Newman (composer, singer and pianist), and the author, Laura Hillenbrand.

What is Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Day (CFIDS), is a debilitating condition with no known cure.

It also goes by the label myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and is a complex chronic illness with a history of long debates on its cause and occurrence. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in America chose the name 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome' in 1988. CFS is not just about mild fatigue but causes extreme exhaustion along with a range of other symptoms, which makes life challenging and difficult for sufferers.

CFIDS has long been misunderstood by doctors and health care professionals often confusing it with psychosomatic disorders. It was put down as "yuppie flu" when it first came to public attention in the 1990s. It was believed to be simple fatigue from overworking. However, researchers have uncovered several physiological anomalies in the immune, neurological, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, cardiovascular and endocrine systems of patients. Thus, CFIDS is now established as a real, medical condition.

CFIDS affects both sexes and occurs in all racial and ethnic groups. People in their 40s and 50s are most likely to experience this condition though children and adolescents are also prone though less common. Studies indicate that girls and women are more prone to CFS with a greater severity.

The exact cause of CFIDS is not yet known though medical researchers and scientists believe that infection, immune system issues, stress-related hormone disorders, genetics and epi-genetics are some of the causative factors. Scientists also believe that psychiatric and emotional disorders also increase the risk of getting CFIDS.

Symptoms of CFIDS

It is often difficult to diagnose CFIDS as the symptoms may be confused with other conditions. Apart from extreme fatigue lasting for 6 months or more, some of the other symptoms include:
  • weakness and low energy
  • loss of short-term memory
  • poor concentration
  • chronic joint pains
  • headache
  • chronic sore throat
  • mild fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • nausea
  • sleeplessness
Symptoms vary from individual to individual and may occur on and off. Patients often experience periods of relapse and remission. While some patients may be able to carry on with normal life activities, almost 25% are disabled by the condition. CFIDS has a deep impact on work, family and all life activities. Since most symptoms are invisible, patients often have a hard time as family, friends and others may not understand or empathize with the discomfort and pain of symptoms.
Apart from the above diagnostic symptoms, patients with CFIDS often experience other co-morbidities like:
  • visual disturbances (blurring, light sensitivity)
  • mood swings, anxiety and panic attacks
  • chills and night sweats
  • irritable bowel and diarrhea
  • allergies to various foods
  • frequent dizziness and fainting
  • gynecological issues like Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
CFIDS is often confused with a range of other disorders like mononucleosis, chronic Lyme disease and lupus because of the overlapping symptoms. Symptoms require careful evaluation before diagnosing for CFIDS.

Treating CFIDS

There is no specific treatment for this condition. Treatment varies on a case-to-case basis and is mostly symptomatic.

Medications are usually given for symptoms like flu, nausea, chronic joint pains and depression. Medications are not curative though it improves the quality of lives of suffering patients.

Apart from medications to ease the pain and discomfort of symptoms, people with CFIDS are given counselling and supportive therapies to cope with daily issues.

Significance of World Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Day 2015

A day dedicated to CFIDS is significant in raising public awareness of this invisible but real disorder.

Prior to a concrete diagnosis, patients with CFIDS are often misunderstood and their symptoms go undiagnosed and untreated. This condition has often been ignored by the medical community and healthcare providers who put it down as psychological symptoms. With advances in medical research on CFIDS, it is now established that this is a biological disorder with probable genetic linkages. A day dedicated to CFIDS is important to make the medical and healthcare communities sensitive to the living issues that go along with this disorder. This day is dedicated to the suffering patients who face daily discomfort and pain along with psychological suffering if their symptoms are not taken seriously.

This day intends to bring out into the open, the psychological suffering of patients who are not diagnosed correctly. It is also a day to advocate for better care, diagnosis, counselling support and research in CFIDS.

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