Study Shows Men and Women Experience Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Differently

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Even with diseases, men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Take, for example, heart disease. Studies show that the first onset of symptoms usually appears earlier among men at around 60+. Women, on the other hand, often experience them in the early seventies.

Men and women may also share the same symptoms during a heart attack. But for the ladies, most are less noticeable. They are also more likely to experience indigestion, extreme fatigue, and faintness before a heart attack.

With chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), one study suggests there are telltale differences between men and women.

But, First, What Is CFS?

Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, CFS is a chronic lifelong illness characterized by severe fatigue that doesn’t get better with rest, body pain, and dizziness.

The symptoms may also worsen after engaging in strenuous physical activities like exercise. The condition also affects different body systems. CFS can happen to anyone, although most of the commonly diagnosed are middle and older adults between the ages of 40 and 60 years old.

CFS used to be controversial for lack of clinical guidelines and its complexity. Often, the symptoms are broad and may mimic those of other conditions.

Some may even confuse it with fibromyalgia, which is extensive body pain accompanied by sleep issues and fatigue. It was only recently that CFS has become a widely accepted diagnosis.

It also doesn’t have any cure, but a growing number of facilities now offer chronic fatigue treatment in major cities. But the best plan still depends on many factors, including gender.

How CFS Affects Men and Women

Over the years, more scientists focus on CFS and its impact on a person’s quality of life. However, most of these focus on women. Not many types of research involve men, which makes the 2014 study in Reumatologia Clinica vital.

The work is a cross-sectional cohort study involving over 1,300 patients diagnosed with CFS. About 90% were women while 9% were men. The median age was between 47 and 57 years old.

Based on their analysis, they found that:

  • Men are more likely to get diagnosed earlier than women. But the time difference between the symptoms and the diagnosis is longer.
  • When it comes to marital status, the percentage of single men with CFS was higher than unmarried women.
  • These men with CFS may also be part of the skilled workforce.
  • The primary trigger among males with CFS was an infection.
  • Compared to women, men with CFS may have fewer symptoms. They don’t experience widespread pain, dizziness, morning stiffness, facial edema, allergies to drugs and metals, and migratory arthralgias or joint pain without swelling as often as the ladies.
  • People with CFS are also likely to have fibromyalgia. However, fewer men are diagnosed with it.
  • Because men feel fewer symptoms, they often rate their quality of life higher than women.

 Chronic Fatigue

What Accounts for the Differences?

Some factors may help explain the significant differences between men and women and their diagnosis and symptoms of CFS:

1. Women May Complain Earlier but May Be Diagnosed Way Later

Studies such as the one above emphasize the fact that CFS is more common among women than men. Some experts, though, believe it has less to do with the symptoms and more about women’s behavior when they experience the disease.

The ladies are more likely to visit their doctor for tests and clear diagnoses than men. On average, women make almost 5 doctor’s appointments annually.

Despite their vigilance, women may receive their diagnosis later than men because of gender biases. Females experience chronic pain longer, but unlike men, they may receive sedatives than painkillers in the beginning. They are also over five times more likely to be misdiagnosed than males.

Socioeconomic differences can also play a role. Even today, a gender gap exists, which implies that men may have more money to spend on doctor’s visits and tests than women.

2. Women Are More Susceptible to the Risk Factors

Many factors can lead to or increase the risk of CFS, and most may affect women. These include hormone imbalances, chronic inflammation, and stress.

A 2015 study in Current Psychiatry Reports shared that females are often diagnosed with autoimmune diseases than men. This is because the number of genes that originate from the X chromosomes are many, increasing the chances of eventually developing mutations.

Further, in a data by the American Psychological Association, about 28% of women may say they are dealing with a great amount of stress compared to 20% of men.

These differences don’t mean that women will always experience worse CFS and that men with the condition can ignore the symptoms. Instead, the information is helpful in improving diagnosis and treatment.

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