Up to 2.5 million people in the U.S. live with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition defined by extreme exhaustion that does not go away with rest. Patients may experience difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, headaches and joint pain. But many patients feel like doctors don't take their concerns seriously. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) hopes to change that.
Christine Lisio suffers from exhaustion and body aches from chronic fatigue syndrome, but getting the right diagnosis wasn't easy. Doctors would often say, "She's just tired, you know," Lisio told CBS News. "She's got two kids. All the labs look good so you must be fine."
Patients like Lisio hope the IOM report, which states that chronic fatigue syndrome is a legitimate and serious disease, will get doctors to pay closer attention to their concerns.
"It says the disease is real," Dr. Gary Kaplan of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine explained. "That is the most critical piece. Secondly, it gives some clear guidelines for physicians to make the diagnoses."
Criteria for a diagnosis include profound fatigue that prohibits a person from participating in activities for more than six months, worsening symptoms after physical or mental exertion, and unrefreshing sleep.
The onset of chronic fatigue syndrome usually occurs in middle age, and the condition affects many more women than men. To get doctors and the public to take it more seriously, experts from IOM also recommend changing the name of the condition to Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease.
For Lisio -- who tries to find relief with alternative therapies like acupuncture and by eating well, not over-exerting herself, and getting proper rest -- the report gives her validation. "It just gives me a lot of hope for people with this disease that there will be better treatments," she said.
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