Background: Most of what is believed about chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is based on clinic-based studies. These studies may not reflect CFS cases in the population.
Methods: We used data from a population-based study of CFS to identify factors associated with receiving a CFS diagnosis. Wichita, Kan, residents were screened by random-digit dialing. Eligible individuals completed a telephone interview. Respondents meeting CFS criteria were invited for a clinical evaluation to confirm CFS. We analyzed all persons with confirmed CFS. The main outcomes of this study, prevalence and incidence of CFS, are published elsewhere. Herein, we present an exploratory analysis with previous CFS diagnosis as the outcome, predicted by demographic and symptom characteristics.
Results: We confirmed CFS in 90 subjects; 14 (16%) had been previously diagnosed as having CFS. Persons in the middle- vs the higher-income group were more likely to have been diagnosed as having CFS (9 [29%] of 31 subjects vs 3 [8%] of 39 subjects; P = .03), as were those with sudden vs gradual fatigue onset (7 [41%] of 17 subjects vs 4 [6%] of 64 subjects; P < .01), those reporting tender lymph nodes (7 [33%] of 21 subjects vs 7 [10%] of 69 subjects; P = .02), and those reporting a sore throat (6 [35%] of 17 subjects vs 8 [11%] of 73 subjects; P = .02). Only 17 (21%) of 81 subjects had sudden fatigue onset, and tender lymph nodes (reported in 21 [23%] of 90 subjects) and a sore throat (reported in 17 [19%] of 90 subjects) were the least common symptoms.
Conclusion: Most cases of CFS in the population are unrecognized by the medical community; persons diagnosed as having CFS may be different from persons with CFS in the general population.