Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS)

Fatigue has become a part of our modern, harried lives. Every day, we juggle jobs, children, and chores on a cycle that leaves many of us exhausted.

But CFIDS, also called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is much more than ordinary tiredness. With CFIDS, the fatigue is strong, persistent, and debilitating, typically making you too weak to perform everyday tasks and activities. The exhaustion typically persists for no apparent reason. You're tired even when you have little to do or even after a good night's rest.

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 500,000 Americans suffer from CFIDS, the vast majority women. In the 1980s, CFIDS was called the yuppie flu because most sufferers were well-educated, middle- to upper-class women in their thirties and forties. Experts used to believe that CFIDS was the result of the Epstein-Barr virus, the same virus that causes mononucleosis. This notion has since been dismissed, but the cause of CFIDS remains a mystery. What we do know is that CFIDS can afflict people of any age, race, or socioeconomic status.

A diagnosis for CFIDS is usually made only after other medical conditions are ruled out. But CFIDS can coexist with other disorders such as depression. It can also resemble other illnesses, including hypothyroidism. Dr. Friedman thinks that most patients who have been diagnosed with CFIDS really have an undiagnosed endocrine problem.


As of now, there is no cure for CFIDS. Instead, treatment aims to relieve the symptoms; for example, sleep remedies for insomnia, or antidepressants for depression. Those with CFIDS generally do benefit from lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, eating well, and reducing stress.

Many symptoms of CFIDS may be confused with those of thyroid disease. People with CFIDS are, of course, tired, but they're also achy and having problems with memory. They may have headaches, joint aches, and muscle pain. Some people with CFIDS may experience weight loss, which may call to mind hyperthyroidism, especially if it's accompanied by a rapid pulse and problems sleeping, both symptoms of CFIDS.

CFIDS may cause a sore throat and tender lymph nodes. For someone who has trouble distinguishing a sore throat from thyroid pain, these symptoms may be incorrectly described to a doctor. But unlike thyroid disease, CFIDS cannot be detected in the blood. Instead, doctors must rely on patient reports of specific symptoms.

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