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Epidemiological characteristics of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis in Australian patients

Authors Johnston S, Staines D, Marshall-Gradisnik S

Received 21 September 2015

Accepted for publication 31 March 2016

Published 17 May 2016 Volume 2016:8 Pages 97—107

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CLEP.S96797

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Harminder Singh

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Henrik Toft Sorensen


Samantha C Johnston1,2 Donald R Staines1 Sonya M Marshall-Gradisnik1,2

1National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases, Menzies Health Institute Queensland, 2School of Medical Sciences, Griffith University, Parklands, QLD, Australia

Background: No epidemiological investigations have previously been conducted in Australia according to the current clinical definitions of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). The aim of this study was to describe sociodemographic and illness characteristics of Australian patients with CFS/ME.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey on the medical history of patients enrolled in an Australian CFS/ME research database between April 2013 and April 2015. Participants were classified according to Fukuda criteria and International Consensus Criteria.
Results: A total of 535 patients diagnosed with CFS/ME by a primary care physician were identified. The mean age of all patients was 46.4 years (standard deviation 12.0); the majority were female (78.61%), Caucasian, and highly educated. Of these, 30.28% met Fukuda criteria. A further 31.96% met both Fukuda criteria and International Consensus Criteria. There were 14.58% reporting chronic fatigue but did not meet criteria for CFS/ME and 23.18% were considered noncases due to exclusionary conditions. Within those meeting CFS/ME criteria, the most common events prior to illness included cold or flu, gastrointestinal illness, and periods of undue stress. Of the 60 symptoms surveyed, fatigue, cognitive, and short-term memory symptoms, headaches, muscle and joint pain, unrefreshed sleep, sensory disturbances, muscle weakness, and intolerance to extremes of temperature were the most commonly occurring symptoms (reported by more than two-thirds of patients). Significant differences in symptom occurrence between Fukuda- and International Consensus Criteria-defined cases were also identified.
Conclusion: This is the first study to summarize sociodemographic and illness characteristics of a cohort of Australian CFS/ME patients. This is vital for identifying potential risk factors and predictors associated with CFS/ME and for guiding decisions regarding health care provision, diagnosis, and management.

Keywords: chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue, diagnosis, epidemiology

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