Longitudinal analysis of symptoms reported by patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

PURPOSE: To determine the effect of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) illness duration and onset type on the likelihood of reporting a symptom during successive follow-up periods.

METHODS: In 1997, a two-phase RDD survey in Wichita, Kansas, was conducted to estimate the prevalence of CFS. Phase I identified 56,154 respondents 18-69 years of age and screened for severe fatigue, extreme tiredness or exhaustion lasting for 1 month or longer. In phase II an equal number of fatigued (n = 7,176) and randomly selected non-fatigued subjects were asked about 8 CFS and 13 non-CFS symptoms, as well as the presence of specific medical and psychiatric conditions. Eligible respondents were clinically evaluated to establish CFS diagnosis. Phase II respondents were re-contacted at 12- (n = 4,331) and 24-months (n = 4,266) for additional follow-up and diagnosis. In this study we considered symptoms reported as being present most of the time during each successive observation period. Generalized estimating equations were used to model symptoms over time and to address study questions. Such a model accounts for correlations among repeated symptoms for each subject. We used an auto-regressive structure for the correlation matrix, assuming the correlations between each pair of repeated symptoms should decrease as the time between symptoms increased

.RESULTS: There were 74 CFS patients who had been ill for 1 to 20 years (median = 6.3 years). Among these, 46 reported gradual and 28 reported sudden onset. Symptoms fluctuated over the course of illness. However, only stomach pain (non-CFS symptom) was more likely to be reported as duration of illness increased (p /=6 months and severe symptoms.

Ann Epidemiol 2000 Oct 1;10(7):458 Related Articles, Books, LinkOut

Nisenbaum R, Jones A, Jones J, Reeves W

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

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