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An Investigation of Sympathetic Hypersensitivity in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Optometry & Vision Science: August 1997
Original Article: PDF Only

Background. There are many theories, but the etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) remains unknown. Diagnosticians have set guidelines to try to classify the condition, but its clinical definition is one of exclusion rather than defined by specific clinical testing. The primary goal of this investigation was to find a diagnostic key to define CFS. CFS patients and those diagnosed with the sympathetic hypersensitivity condition called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) exhibit identical brain single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) images. Therefore, this investigation was initiated to see if CFS patients also had denervation hypersensitivity of the sympathetic system.

Methods. A standardized supersensitivity test was performed using an ocular instillation of two drops of 1.0% phenylephrine. Sixty-two subjects (29 CFS patients and 33 normals) participated in the study. Measurements of pupil size were recorded by pupil gauge and flash photography. A pupillary dilation of greater than 2.5 mm would suggest a sympathetic denervation hypersensitivity.

Results. For all participants, a small, but statistically significant increase in pupil size was found (mean of 0.788 mm in normals and 0.931 mm in CFS patients). The change in pupil size in the CFS patients and controls showed substantial overlap and was not statistically significant (t=0.83, p=0.42, dF=60). Conclusion. In conclusion, the results suggest that a denervation hypersensitivity of the pupil does not occur in CFS patients. The use of 1.0% topical phenylephrine had no diagnostic value in detecting CSF patients vs. normals.

(C) 1997 American Academy of Optometry