Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue? Check for
Georgetown University Medical Center
Patients suffering with unexplained chronic
fatigue or unexplained body pain should ask their doctors to check for
sinusitis, according to a Georgetown University Medical Center
researcher. A study published in the August 11, 2003 issue of the
Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrates a possible link between
these ailments, offering possible new hope to patients.
31 July 2004
The observational study found that
patients with unexplained chronic fatigue were nine times more likely to
also suffer sinus symptoms than members of a control group, and patients
with unexplained chronic pain were six times more likely to have sinus
symptoms. An earlier ear, nose, and throat study cited by this
Georgetown research found that symptoms such as chronic fatigue and body
pain were alleviated following treatment of sinusitis.
Taken together, these studies give sufferers
reason for optimism.
"Chronic fatigue is a condition that
frustrates both doctors and their patients since treatments directed at
just the symptoms without knowing the cause are typically ineffective,"
said Alexander C. Chester, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at
Georgetown University Medical Center and principal investigator of the
pilot study. "While sinusitis will not be the diagnosis for everyone who
comes to an internist with unexplained fatigue or pain, this study does
suggest that it should be considered as part of a patientís medical
Through his private internal medicine
practice, Chester questioned 297 patients, noting unexplained chronic
fatigue in 22 percent, unexplained chronic pain in 11 percent, and both
symptoms in 9 percent of the patients. While these numbers are
consistent with previous studies, Chester observed an unusual connection
between patients with chronic pain or fatigue: prevalent sinus symptoms.
The CDC approximates that sinusitis
affects 32 million Americans. Rates are highest among women and people
living in the South. Women comprised 46 percent of the participants in
this study, but represented 60 percent of the group with fatigue,
predominance also noted in most prior studies.
Fifteen out of the 65 patients in
Chesterís study met criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a
severe form of unexplained chronic fatigue associated with body pains
and other symptoms. Most CFS patients had sinus symptoms and many noted
a sudden onset of their illness, similar to people with sinusitis.
"We clearly need to do more comprehensive
research to see if sinus treatments alleviate fatigue and pain. This
study does, however, offer hope for possible help in the future," said