CFS Affects More Teens Than Previously Thought

CFS Affects More Teens Than Previously ThoughtCFS Affects More Teens Than Previously Thought

Around 1 in 50 children aged 16 years have chronic fatigue syndrome lasting at least 6 months. This is the conclusion of what is deemed the largest study to date of the disorder in children.

Chronic fatigue syndrome(CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a condition characterized by severe fatigue that shows no improvement with bed rest, and which may be exacerbated by physical or mental exertion.

In the US, a person may be diagnosed with CFS if they experience severe chronic fatigue for at least 6 months that is not due to ongoing exertion or other conditions linked to fatigue.

They must also have at least four of eight symptoms, which include unrefreshing sleep, muscle pain, headache and frequent or recurring sore throat, reported.

In the UK, severe chronic fatigue lasting 3 months or longer warrants a CFS diagnosis.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 million people in the US have CFS. The condition is more common among women than men and people in their 40s and 50s, though CFS can affect people of any age.

For their study, published in the journal Pediatrics, lead author Dr. Simon Collin, of the UK’s University of Bristol, and colleagues set out to estimate the prevalence of CFS among children aged 16 years.

The team analyzed the data of 5,756 children who were part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort - also known as “Children of the 90s.” The study enrolled more than 14,000 expectant mothers in 1991-1992 and continues to track the health of mothers, their partners and children.

 Possible Triggers

Infections, immune dysfunction, severely low blood pressure and nutritional deficiency are some possible triggers of CFS.

Some studies have suggested physical activity may help manage some symptoms.

Specifically, Collin and colleagues analyzed information from questionnaires completed by parents and children, which disclosed any incidence of unexplained severe fatigue.

Additionally, researchers used data from the National Pupil Database to estimate the number of missed school days as a result of CFS.

They calculated that 1.9% of 16-year-olds - almost 1 in 50 - were affected by CFS lasting at least 6 months, while almost 3% had CFS lasting 3 months or longer.

Compared with children without CFS, researchers found that those with the condition missed around half a day of school each week.

Furthermore, children with CFS were more likely to come from families with greater adversity, defined by researchers as families with poor housing, financial problems and mothers with lack of practical and/or emotional support.

This latter finding challenges the popular notion that CFS is more likely to affect middle-class individuals, according to the authors.