Gaining a Perspective on CFS/CFIDS/GWI/PTSD. Exiting The Dark Ages of Our Illness.

GWI/CFS/PTSD  are known as  “Invisible Illnesses”. This means that on average, when out in public, the patient may look well enough so that doctors, family members and even friends do not think or believe that the patient is seriously ill. This is a trick of nature. A camouflage. Although we live with a covert illness, in no way do we as patients  fit into normal society. As a result, some of us learn to hide our illness, which makes for less scrutiny and criticism. This may be an invisible disease to the majority in the Medical, Political and Societal realms; yet it is truly a Visible War for the patients, doctors and caretakers whom are a part of this. Most patients are anything but “well” 50-100% of the time; and most Never get to “feel” better than a 3, on a scale of 1-10. Without Medical Treatment, Patients are left to endure a life of constant suffering.

Following the decline of The Roman Empire, Western Europe experienced a period of cultural and economic decline and disruption known as The Dark Ages. In the 1330’s, an Italian scholar named Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch, developed the concept of The Dark Age. The concept was intended as a sweeping criticism of Post-Roman centuries as “Dark” compared to the “Light” of Classical Antiquity. The times lacked of Latin Literature and contemporary written history, there was a general demographic decline plus limited building activity and material cultural achievements in general. The Dark Ages spanned the era between the Fall of Rome and The Renaissance. Petrarch said of the times “Amidst the errors there shone forth, men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom.”

The CFS/GWI/PTSD Dark Ages have spanned the past 30+ years. When a disease is first noted, often times the etiology is “unknown” for some time. Thus, the medical and societal communities at large tend to discount some new diseases as “psychosomatic”, due to lack of understanding. It is human nature to “put down or discount” what is unfamiliar or uncommon. Society at large says, “How can one validate what they do not understand, cannot see or can not empathize with?” Societal Norms, Paradigms and our Belief Systems tend to lean towards concrete, substantiated proof based on scientific data. The average person cannot cope with the “concept” of the disease at hand, until the etiology has been determined. If the causation and etiology can not be fully understood; then there needs to be evidence based published scientific studies proving diagnosis and treatment protocols.

Looking to the past, we can find similar medical and societal nightmares that occurred for other patient populations of some well-known diseases. Before etiology was known, AIDS was originally called “Gay Hysteria”, Freud called Multiple Sclerosis “Female Hysteria”, as both were considered mental conditions; and certain types of Leukemia were once thought to be ”hysteria”. CFS has been discounted in cartoon strips as “The Yuppie Flu” and patients have been labeled as malingerers, psychotics and neurotics.

 It may be safe to say that any new disease with unknown etiology that affects the Central Nervous System may be labeled as a psychosomatic syndrome, instead of a disease that is affecting the central nervous system. I hope this barbaric attitude changes, not only for our diseases, but also for future diseases that appear. We are in the Age of The Virus; more serious diseases with unknown etiology are likely to appear. It is criminal behavior to discount patients with a serious, life altering biological disease.

Most of us are familiar with the Incline Village CFS Outbreak (1984-1989) involving 259 known patients. Prior and after that, there have been around 50 outbreaks recorded around the Globe. In addition to these smaller outbreaks, two large Outbreaks have been recorded as well and largely ignored.

The Los Angeles Outbreak (1934) occurred at Los Angeles General Hospital and was the 1st suspected CFS outbreak ever officially recorded. 200 members of the hospital staff contracted the disease and over 50% of them remained unable to work 6 months later.

The Royal Free Outbreak (1955) occurred in The UK and may be the largest scale CFS outbreak ever recorded in The UK. Occurring over a 4-½ month period beginning in the spring of 1955 with a few people. By July of 1955, the outbreak grew to over 300 members of the hospital staff and the hospital eventually was closed down until October of that year.

These recorded outbreaks were “not enough” to substantiate CFS as a biological disease. It would eventually take concrete scientific data to disprove the mental syndrome labeling. Eventually, it was scientifically proven that two factors must be involved for  CFS to occur:  1) a genetic predisposition PLUS  2) a virulent trigger.  These 2 factors alone prove this is a biological disease; not a  mental illness.

We now have scientific data proving that viruses involved and  linked with  CFS/CFIDS and possibly GWI and PTSD can  infect cells of the immune and neurological system and are capable of causing latent infections and reactivating under certain conditions. We have proof of increased allergies to food and medications, inflammation to the central nervous system, inflammation to the brain, immune dysfunction and viral reactivation; all of which are involved in part or together. Other proven factors/symptoms that can be present are Neurally Mediated Hypo tension (NMH) and Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), both of which are considered to be directly caused by viruses. Serious sleep disorders which cause lack of deep sleep that the body depends on to perform cell repair each night alters the body’s restoration process; directly resulting in insomnia, sleep disturbances, fatigue and physical and cognitive decline. Scientific data shows that certain subsets have cardiac involvement that can result in heart damage as well as heart failure under certain circumstances in certain subsets. Graded exercise was once a prescription for patients, but is now thought to be harmful or even fatal for those with certain types of cardiac involvement.

Exiting the Dark Ages of CFS/CFIDS  we have garnered enough information to begin to understand these diseases and to move forward towards targeted Biological Research that will move us towards Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention.

In CFS  alone,  Approximately 3  in 1000 people are afflicted. 47% of the diagnosed patient populations are disabled. It is 3-4x more likely to afflict women than men (similar to MS and Lupus statistics.) There are at least 1 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. and up to 17 million projected worldwide. It is Theorized that there are approximately 3-4 million  cases undiagnosed in the U.S. alone. Only 1-3% of patients recover fully without medical treatment. To go from CFS to the virally induced subset of CFIDS; it is believed that the patient experiences the original triggering event; then 1) immune activation occurs; 2) cellular dysfunction occurs; 3) viral reactivation occurs.

With the discovery of the viral links and involvement  of  HHV-6A, EBV and CMV plus multiple Pathogens to CFS/CFIDS and perhaps in GWI/PTSD,  we now  have an understanding of  what biological research to focus upon.  For certain subsets affected by these viruses and pathogens, treatment options may be more advanced and available than other subsets. For example, we know that there are at least two subsets. One is viral induced with chronic viral reactivation (approximately 60-75%) and the second subset shows no reactivation of viruses present (approximately 25-30%). Right Now, we know that the viral reactivation subset has the best chance for successful treatment using antivirals.

It is with our hard earned knowledge and scientific studies that have and will be conducted that we are able to move toward the Light and away from the Dark Years of CFS. Although we as patients are in the midst of exiting our Dark Ages with this disease, “no less keen are our eyes, although surrounded by darkness and dense gloom”.

What needs to be done and what will be done are yet to be seen. However, radical changes and the potential for progress are now set in stone for all  patients. It is only a matter of Time, Advocacy and Scientific Studies before we are completely out of our Dark Years and into the Light Years with our diseases.

Julia Rachel

VERY Lucky Girl on Valcyte

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: