A new study into young people with chronic fatigue syndrome highlights the need for more specialised services, the Sussex ME Society claims.
One in fifty 16-year-olds are affected by chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalopathy (ME), according to the study released at the beginning of the week by researchers from the University of Bristol.
Dr Esther Crawley, the senior author of the report and a medical advisor to the Sussex ME Society, said: “This is an important study because it shows that CFS/ME is much more common in teenagers than previously recognised.”
The research found that nearly three per cent of 16-year-olds have CFS lasting more than three months and that girls are almost twice as likely to have the condition as boys. Contrary to the commonly held view of CFS as a ‘middle-class’ illness, children from families experiencing adversity, such as poor housing or financial difficulties, are more likely to have the condition.
There is currently only one specialised centre for under-18’s with CFS in the county, which is based at Brighton General Hospital and takes referrals from paediatricians at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.
Chairman of the Sussex ME Society, Colin Barton, said: “In the Brighton and Hove area we are fortunate as there are a number of paediatricians with knowledge of the illness.” Staff at the centre help young people come to terms with the condition, providing them and their parents with advice and support. But Mr Barton said the new research proves that similar services in other parts of Sussex are “very much needed” and services for young people are particularly crucial as treatment is usually effective at a young age. “With good management a lot of youngsters can make a full recovery, ” he said. “The sooner they are diagnosed, the better chance they have.”
Dr Crawley is concerned that due to limited access to treatment, only the most severe cases are getting the help they need. She said: “As paediatricians, we need to get better at identifying CFS/ME, particularly in those children from disadvantaged backgrounds who may be less able to access specialist care.”