Comparison of patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), & multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS)

BACKGROUND: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), and

multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) are conditions

associated with fatigue and a variety of other symptoms that

appear to share many clinical and demographic features. Our

objectives were to describe the similarities and differences

among patients with CFS, FM, and MCS. Additional objectives

were to determine how frequently patients with MCS and FM met

the criteria for CFS and if they differed in their health

locus of control.

METHODS: Demographic, clinical, and

psychosocial measures were prospectively collected in 90

patients, 30 each with CFS, FM, and MCS. Patients were

recruited from a university-based referral clinic devoted to

the evaluation and treatment of chronic fatigue and three

private practices. Variables included demographic features,

symptoms characteristic of each condition, psychological

complaints, a measure of health locus of control, and

information on health care use.

RESULTS: Overall, the three

patient groups were remarkably similar in demographic

characteristics and the presence of specific symptoms.

Patients with CFS and FM frequently reported symptoms

compatible with MCS. Likewise, 70% of patients with FM and 30%

of those with MCS met the criteria for CFS. Health care use

was substantial among patients with CFS, FM, and MCS, with an

average of 22.1, 39.7, and 23.3 visits, respectively, to a

medical provider during the prior year. Health locus of

control did not differ among the three populations.

CONCLUSIONS: In general, demographic and clinical factors and

health locus of control do not clearly distinguish patients

with CFS, FM, and MCS. Symptoms typical of each disorder are

prevalent in the other two conditions.

Buchwald D, Garrity D

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