Chronic fatigue syndrome, a baffling illness that strikes thousands of Americans, may be linked to a type of abnormally low blood pressure, according to scientists at Johns Hopkins University.
If the findings prove correct, people who suffer from the syndrome may be able to reclaim their shattered lives by using an inexpensive and simple therapy - common table salt.
“It’s not a cure, but it’s a way to manage the illness,” said Katherine Lucas, 34, of Richmond, Va., a chronic fatigue sufferer who says she’s on the road to recovery after a year on a high-salt diet.
Lucas was one of the subjects in the experiment at Hopkins, which found a link between chronic fatigue syndrome and a condition known as neurally mediated hypotension.
The condition, a common cause of fainting, occurs when blood pressure plummets to abnormally low levels due to faulty signaling between the brain and the heart.
Findings of the study are reported in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“It is the widest beam of hope yet,” said K. Kimberly Kenney, executive director of the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America, based in Charlotte, N.C.
Once derided as “yuppie flu,” chronic fatigue syndrome is now regarded as a serious illness by many scientists.
It is characterized by profound tiredness that lasts more than six months and often leaves people unable to hold down jobs. Typically, patients also experience impairments in thinking and severe muscle and joint pain.
Scientists have not yet found a cause for the illness, which strikes up to nine in every 100,000 Americans, according to a survey of doctors conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Patient advocacy groups put the figure much higher, saying that as many as 500,000 Americans may have the illness.