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Miriam: DOH must attend to chronic fatigue syndrome problem

April 30, 2009 1:57pm
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago chided the Department of Health on Thursday for not giving attention to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a still poorly understood debilitating disorder supposedly afflicting many Filipinos.

In a press statement, Santiago said the DOH must conduct studies on the disorder and determine the number of Filipinos suffering from it.

“It appears that CFS has slipped under the DOH’s radar, despite the fact that more and more Filipinos are being afflicted by it," she said.

Santiago earlier filed Senate Bill 3195, which tasks the DOH and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) to carry out a national campaign to increase public awareness and knowledge of CFS.

The campaign is aimed at the dissemination of information on the causes, prevention, and diagnosis of CFS, as well as available treatments for sufferers.

“One of the challenges faced by CFS-affected persons is the apparent lack of recognition regarding the seriousness of the disease. A CFS patient faces the social stigma that he or she is just malingering, wants attention, or is feigning CFS-like symptoms," she said.

She added that the stigma can have a negative psychological effect on the patient and may cause prolonged recovery from the disease.

In late 2008, Santiago was diagnosed by her doctors to be suffering from CFS. She had to take a leave of absence from the Senate upon the advice of her doctors.

Recently, Cristina Ponce Enrile, wife of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, resigned from her post as ambassador to the Vatican, after being diagnosed with CFS.

CFS is defined as a complex illness that produces extreme fatigue over a prolonged period. The condition has also been called post-viral fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome. The condition impacts primarily on the immune system, nervous system, muscles, and endocrine system.

Although the number and severity of the symptoms may vary, the major symptoms of CFS are: extreme tiredness lasting at least six months; impairment of short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle and joint pain without swelling or redness; difficulty sleeping; headaches; and prolonged muscle fatigue and feeling ill after even mild exertion.

CFS sufferers may also experience abdominal pain, earaches, intolerance to alcohol, chest pain, coughing, dizziness, nausea, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, bloating, dry eyes and mouth, jaw pain, joint stiffness in the morning, night sweats, depression, and weight loss.
Since the disorder carries varying symptoms, CFS is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. The condition is more prevalent among women aged 25 to 45, but it can affect children and adults of any age and people from all ethnic groups. In the United Kingdom alone, it is estimated that there are 150,000 people suffering from CFS.

Santiago complained of dizziness, nausea, and arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat prior to being diagnosed with CFS. - Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV