Researchers Are Investigating a Possible Connection Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and COVID-19

Business Insider recently interviewed Marissa Oliver, a resident of New York City, who told us about the problems she has encountered during her recovery from COVID-19.

Marissa, an arts manager, felt that she had almost recovered from the virus. She was able to easily take forty-minute walks or speak on the phone for a half-hour.

That all changed after Marissa went on a short trip and had a set-back that proved to be even more difficult to manage than her initial recovery.

After struggling with breathing problems and being unable to handle daily tasks, Marissa developed a “plan to cope”. She takes a break from work at various times during the day. She also limits her social media and activities.

Post-COVID Syndrome

The medical community is aware that some patients who have recovered from the coronavirus may experience a relapse after strenuous exercise.

Although it is too soon after the initial pandemic outbreak to gauge long-term effects, doctors have already noticed a pattern of COVID patients feeling weak or “foggy” when going about their daily routine.

Nate Favini, M.D. heads Forward, an organization that is accumulating nationwide data from coronavirus patients. Dr. Favini told Business Insider that some people will experience a chronic fatigue-like disorder after COVID-19 and will be coping with these symptoms for many years.

One theory is that blood clots cause fatigue in COVID-19 patients. Dr. Favini explained that small clots in a person’s lungs can cause fatigue. It is always possible that the lungs may have been damaged. If so, even though the clots have been cleared the fatigue may linger. The symptoms resemble fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis) sometimes begins after a person presents flu-like symptoms.

Most occurrences, consisting of extreme exhaustion and fatigue, last six months or more. Patients may be bedridden for weeks or have severe reactions to daily activities like grocery shopping or even taking a shower.

Symptoms may include sleep disruptions, sore throat, GI issues, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Thinking and cognition are also affected.

Searching for the Cause of CFS

The CDC estimates that at least 2.5 million people in the United States have CFS, but most people have yet to be diagnosed. Caucasians, more so than other races, tend to be diagnosed with suspected CFS.

CFS can be brought on by infectious disorders such as Epstein-Barr virus or by Lyme disease.  Changes in the immune system, stress, or other infections are also considerations.

Other than these findings, doctors have not reached a point of identifying the origin of CFS.

In order for people with COVID-19 to be diagnosed with CFS, they would have to have been ill with the disease for six months. Most people have not yet reached that milestone.

Although studies indicate that changes in the immune system, stress, or infections may be the cause, the exact origin of the disorder has yet to be been determined.

In addition, there are no tests that will confirm whether a person has CFS. In fact, the medical community has not yet fully accepted the existence of CFS.

Revisiting SARS

In their attempt to determine the relationship between CFS and the coronavirus, researchers examined the records of SARS patients who were diagnosed with the virus in 2003.

A Hong Kong study showed that twenty-seven percent of SARS patients met the clinical criteria for CFS four years from the onset of their illness.

A study of SARS patients (n109) in Toronto, Canada, showed that over fifty percent of patients had not gone back to work. The patients reported severe and persistent weakness and fatigue one year after their ICU discharge.

Another group of SARS Patients in Toronto were subjects of a 2011 study that found the virus had crossed their blood-brain barriers. This led to prolonged neurological problems such as disruption of cognition and sleep.

Doctors compare COVID-19 to SARS since it is an inflammatory disease that interferes with the nervous system’s normal pathways.

It seems that the pandemic has created renewed interest in CFS.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia four years ago. He was treated with a methylating agent While he was being treated with a hypomethylating agent, Rose researched investigational drugs being developed to treat relapsed/refractory AML.

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