Science and Tech


How many Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome?

The CDC says millions of Americans could be affected by the long-lasting, difficult-to-treat disease.
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Posted at 9:18 PM, Dec 08, 2023

U.S. health officials have estimated for the first time the number of Americans who may have chronic fatigue syndrome: 3.3 million.

Chronic fatigue syndrome generally describes at least six months of severe exhaustion, and may include pain or brain fog that gets worse after exercise or work. Bed rest does not alleviate the symptoms.

The cause of the illness is unknown. Some doctors believe it may arise from a prolonged or excessive immune reaction. There is no easy diagnosis and no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Experts believe the effects of COVID-19 infections may have contributed to an increase in cases.

The CDC survey found cases were more common in women than in men, though cases were not as widely separated as earlier studies had found. The disease is generally more common among White people and Black people than among other races or ethnicities. Poorer people were more likely to report the disease than more affluent groups.

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The report surveyed a representative 57,000 U.S. adults in 2021 and 2022. It asked respondents to answer based on their memories, not on any formal medical records.

CDC officials say the final counts may have included people with long COVID and associated symptoms of exhaustion. But in any case, experts say, it's likely that chronic fatigue syndrome is underdiagnosed among the U.S. population.

"It’s never, in the U.S., become a clinically popular diagnosis to give because there’s no drugs approved for it," Dr. Daniel Clauw, director of the University of Michigan’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, told The Associated Press. "There’s no treatment guidelines for it."