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Chronic Fatigue Patients May Benefit From Hydrocortisone Therapy

  [ 382 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Tamara Schuit • • July 11, 2000

Because people with CFS may produce too few natural steroids, numerous studies using low doses of hydrocortisone have concluded that using hydrocortisone can be effective in alleviating fatigue in CFS patients.

Hydrocortisone is a synthetic drug similar to cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. In one study researchers gave 32 CFS patients 5-10 mg of hydrocortisone daily for 1 month. Patients also received a placebo for 1 month. During each phase of the study, patients were asked about their level of fatigue and physical difficulties. Compared to how they felt at the beginning of the study, patients reported significantly less fatigue while taking hydrocortisone than the placebo. The degree of physical disability was also reduced by hydrocortisone treatment, but not by the placebo.

A study performed by Dr. Mark Demitrack, as published in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, A Treatment Guide, indicated chronic adrenal insufficiency in CFS patients. The low levels of cortisol, combined with increased or new inflammatory responses (allergies, IBS, and rheumatic conditions), also seemed to point to the use of cortisol as a potentially effective treatment for CFS.

According to the book, Hope and Help for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, some physicians prescribe steroids to reduce severe joint inflammation. However, due to their potency, steroids such as hydrocortisone should never be used casually or for pain alone.

Researchers cautioned that cortisone should be for short-term use only. Used this way, it can be lifesaving for patients with severe allergic reactions or acute-onset CFS.

Hydrocortisone is a glucocorticoid hormone excreted by the adrenal cortex in response to stress, inflammation, and low blood sugar levels. It also has an effect on protein and carbohydrate metabolism. A major cause of exhaustion is the depletion of hormones such as cortisone.

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