The Invisible Burden of Chronic Fatigue in the Community: a Narrative Review
Purpose of Review
Unexplained fatigue is commonly reported in the general population, with varying severity. Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) sits at the extreme of the fatigue continuum, yet more individuals experience unexplained prolonged fatigue (1–6-month duration) or chronic fatigue (> 6 months) that, although debilitating, does not fulfil ME/CFS criteria. This review examines the empirical literature comparing symptoms for those with prolonged fatigue, chronic fatigue and ME/CFS.
Substantial overlap of self-reported psychological, physical and functional impairments exists between chronic fatigue and ME/CFS. The conversion rate from prolonged or chronic fatigue to ME/CFS is not understood. Current research has failed to uncover factors accounting for differences in fatigue trajectories, nor incorporate comprehensive, longitudinal assessments extending beyond self-reported symptoms.
Distinguishing factors between prolonged fatigue, chronic fatigue and ME/CFS remain poorly understood, highlighting a need for longitudinal studies integrating biopsychosocial approaches to inform early management and targeted rehabilitation strategies.
KeywordsMyalgic encephalomyelitis Chronic fatigue syndrome Fatigue Autonomic Function
This work was supported by a grant from the Mason Foundation (National Medical Program: MAS2017F033).
Compliance With Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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