Source: The Mercury, 25 January 1995, p. 11
WOMEN were three times more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome than men, yet they were diagnosed less than half as quickly and many were wrongly sent to a psychiatrist, a re- cent survey suggests. Women were diagnosed with CFS or myalgic en- cephalomyelitis an average of 4.7 years after the first symptoms, more than twice the average 1.8 years doctors took to diagnose men, the survey of almost 300 people found. The results of the study do not necessarily apply across the nation because the 206 women and 67 men were members of the ME/ CFS Society of New South Wales and a northern Sydney CFS youth sup- port group rather than a randomly selected slice of the general popula- tion. People with CFS saw a doctor an average of 25.8 times a year but had a low level of satisfaction with how general practitioners and specialists handled the disease. More than half those surveyed found their doctors were dismissive of their illness or ac- cused them of malinger- ing and 30 per cent found themselves in- appropriately referred to a psychiatrist. Because of CFS-link- ed weight loss, young girls were particularly at risk of being misdiag- nosed with the eating disorders anorexia or bulimia nervosa by doc- tors who did not know about or believe in CFS, ME/CFS member Michael Lyons said yesterday. "A great percentage of them don't even believe in ME," he said. "It baffles me why doctors find it so diffi- cult to take it on board." CFS is thought to affect between 50,000 and 150,000 people in Australia. The ME/CFS Society of NSW's survey was conducted in 1993 and reported to the federal health minister's CFS review committee. Committee leader Dr David Watson of St John of God Hospital, West- ern Australia, will speak at a consensus conference on CFS at Sydney's Darling Har- bour Convention Centre on February 18 and 19. CFS can last for months or even years troubling people with overwhelming lethargy, muscle pains, poor circulation, poor concentration and memory loss often making it im- possible to work or even to get out of bed. AAP
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