MRI scans may be able to detect chronic fatigue syndrome

Because diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome is so difficult, many people, including some doctors, do not believe it is real. People who feel exhausted no matter how much they try to sleep will seek medical help, but often be told their problems are all in their heads. Despite their symptoms being dismissed as hypochondria, these unfortunate people’s health problems persist until they finally receive the proper diagnosis.

Even doctors who know the illness exists may struggle to make a diagnosis, which currently can only be done by ruling out other disorders. That is because no blood test or brain scan can currently definitively detect chronic fatigue syndrome.

However, a new study from Stanford University may have found a way to make diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome easier. They found that people with chronic fatigue have different MRI results than healthy people.

Researchers found that brains of chronic fatigue patients have a little less white matter, the substance that allows the brain’s different regions to communicate. They also have an abnormality in a tract in the right hemisphere, and thickness in a couple of connection points.

The presence of these structural differences could be a diagnostic tool, though the study’s author cautioned that his work involved a small number of subjects. The results need further study.

But research like this continues to bring chronic fatigue syndrome into mainstream medicine. People with this condition may be able to receive Social Security Disability benefits, if they qualify based on the severity of their condition and their work history.