The stigma surrounding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is not limited to disability insurance companies.
A recent article in the Daily Mail reports an English scientist who said that hundreds of patients who have Lyme disease symptoms actually have CFS. But there is so much stigma attached to CFS that they deny the diagnosis.
It’s not their doctor’s favorite diagnosis either.
People suffering from CFS suffer from fatigue, joint and muscle pain, poor sleep and problems concentrating that is often known as “brain fog.”
Disability insurance companies flag CFS claims for a closer look, but families and friends are just as likely as insurance companies to dismiss symptoms as being made up or psychosomatic (a physical symptom created by the person’s mind).
Dr Sarah Logan, a lead consultant at the Hospital for Tropical Disease, University College London Hospitals, told the Daily Mail that most people who think they have Lyme disease in the UK probably don’t. They are more likely to be suffering from CFS.
Part of the problem is that an increased awareness of Lyme disease means that more people are being tested for it, and they are going to online forums where they are receiving flawed information. She said that people are told that the tests for Lyme disease in the UK are not that good, and that they should have the tests done in another country, when that is simply not the case. They don’t want to believe they have CFS, and make a concerted effort to prove that they have Lyme disease instead.
While the Center for Disease Control says that Lyme disease impacts 300,000 annually in the US, the UK numbers are far lower: 3,000 people every year.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans via bites from infected ticks. Early symptoms include a circular red rash, described as a bulls-eye rash. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to joint problems and damage the heart and nervous system. One of the symptoms is difficulty concentrating and memory problems, which are among the symptoms of CFS.
In later stages of Lyme disease, inflammation of the eyes, spine and brain can occur. Patients lose their vision and become increasingly sensitive to light. Lyme disease is a serious disease that requires prompt and often long-term treatment.
CFS and Fibromyalgia have similar symptoms to Lyme disease, but any similarity between the three diseases ends at the symptoms. Left untreated, Lyme disease can be fatal.
Dr. Logan said that doctors also shy away from diagnosing patients with CFS because of the stigma, the mystery around the condition and the lack of treatments. It’s not as satisfying as telling a patient they have a known illness that has a treatment and an eventual cure.
Lyme disease, CFS and Fibromyalgia patients all know the intense scrutiny that comes from long-term disability insurance companies. They know that their claims are going to be questioned, that additional medical reports will be requested and that every line of the application will be reviewed. This is not to say that long-term disability insurance companies should not process claims properly—they should. But people with these three diseases seem to receive a disproportionate number of delays and denials.
Frankel & Newfield works many patients with Lyme disease, CFS and Fibromyalgia. We understand the issues that people experience in their daily lives that make it difficult to deal with demanding disability insurance companies.
Call our office today at 877-583-2524 to learn how we can help you.