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Physical symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are exacerbated by the stress of Hurricane Andrew

  [ 66 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • July 5, 1995

This study examined the effects of Hurricane Andrew on physical
symptoms and functional impairments in a sample of chronic
fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients residing in South Florida. In
the months after Hurricane Andrew (September 15-December 31,
1992), 49 CFS patients were assessed for psychosocial and
physical functioning with questionnaires, interviews, and
physical examinations. This sample was made up of 25 CFS
patients living in Dade county, a high impact area, and 24
patients in Broward and Palm Beach counties, areas less
affected by the hurricane. Based on our model for
stress-related effects on CFS, we tested the hypothesis that
the patients who had the greatest exposure to this natural
disaster would show the greatest exacerbation in CFS symptoms
and related impairments in activities of daily living (illness

In support of this hypothesis, we found that the Dade
county patients showed significant increases in
physician-rated clinical relapses and exacerbations in
frequency of several categories of self-reported CFS physical
symptoms as compared to the Broward/Palm Beach county
patients. Illness burden, as measured on the Sickness Impact
Profile, also showed a significant increase in the Dade county
patients. Although extent of disruption due to the storm was a
significant factor in predicting relapse, the patient's
posthurricane distress response was the single strongest
predictor of the likelihood and severity of relapse and
functional impairment. Additionally, optimism and social
support were significantly associated with lower illness
burden after the hurricane, above and beyond storm-related
disruption and distress responses. These findings provide
information on the impact of environmental stressors and
psychosocial factors in the exacerbation of CFS symptoms.

Lutgendorf SK, Antoni MH, Ironson G, Fletcher MA, Penedo F,... ,
Klimas N

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