Objective: Evaluation of the life impact of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) over 5 years.
Methods: Thirty-three adult patients meeting 1988 and 1994 CDC case criteria answered identical questionnaires at diagnosis and 5 years later, when a retrospective questionnaire was also completed.
Results: Work disability was very high and increased further, social isolation remained high, emotional adjustment improved. There were increased problems with reading and with allergies. Two measures of improvement were used: The relation between these measures was weak. Length of illness, extent of disability and emotional adjustment were poorly related to measures of improvement. Average illness scores were unchanged, but most individuals improved in some ways while worsening or remaining the same in others. Only one participant (3%) neared recovery, one other was substantially better but still severely disabled.
Conclusion: CFS patients exhibit severe, long-term functional impairment. Substantial improvement is uncommon, less than 6%. Allergies and aspects of cognition may worsen, emotional adjustment often improves.