Meeus M, Ickmans K, Struyf F, Kos D, Lambrecht L, Willekens B, Cras P, Nijs J
Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
Kelly Ickmans is a research fellow of ME Research UK. The study was funded by a research grant ME Research UK awarded to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Jo Nijs is holder of the Chair ‘Exercise immunology and chronic fatigue in health and disease’ funded by the European College for Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy, the Netherlands.
The current study had two objectives: (1) to compare objective and self-report measures in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) according to the 1994 Center for Disease Control (CDC) criteria, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), and healthy controls, and (2) to contrast CFS patients who only fulfill CDC criteria to those who also fulfill the criteria for myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), the 2003 Canadian criteria for ME/CFS, or the comorbid diagnosis of fibromyalgia (FM).
One hundred six participants (48 CFS patients diagnosed following the 1994 CDC criteria, 19 MS patients, and 39 healthy controls) completed questionnaires assessing symptom severity, quality of life, daily functioning, and psychological factors. Objective measures consisted of activity monitoring, evaluation of maximal voluntary contraction and muscle recovery, and cognitive performance. CFS patients were screened whether they also fulfilled ME criteria, the Canadian criteria, and the diagnosis of FM.
CFS patients scored higher on symptom severity, lower on quality of life, and higher on depression and kinesiophobia and worse on MVC, muscle recovery, and cognitive performance compared to the MS patients and the healthy subjects. Daily activity levels were also lower compared to healthy subjects. Only one difference was found between those fulfilling the ME criteria and those who did not regarding the degree of kinesiophobia (lower in ME), while comorbidity for FM significantly increased the symptom burden.
CFS patients report more severe symptoms and are more disabled compared to MS patients and healthy controls. Based on the present study, fulfillment of the ME or Canadian criteria did not seem to give a clinically different picture, whereas a diagnosis of comorbid FM selected symptomatically worse and more disabled patients.