A new Internet-based treatment program for teens with chronic fatigue syndrome has proven highly effective -- with nearly two-thirds reporting recovery after just 6 months.
Researchers in the Netherlands said the program -- Fatigue In Teenagers on the Internet (FITNET) -- is the first Web-based treatment for adolescents with the syndrome and has been found to be more effective than traditional therapies at reducing its symptoms.
Scientists, reporting online in The Lancet, said their research found that after just 6 months of treatment, 63 percent of adolescents receiving FITNET treatment reported that they had “recovered” – nearly eight times the recovery rate among those given standard care.
"With FITNET, effective treatment is within reach for any adolescent with CFS,” said Sanne Nijhof from the University Medical Centre Utrecht in The Netherlands, lead author of the study. “These findings stress the need for proper and rapid diagnosis and making medical professionals aware of adolescent CFS and the treatment options."
CFS causes persistent fatigue and other symptoms including poor concentration and memory, and muscle and joint pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy proven effective in treating afflicted teens, but a shortage of trained therapists has limited its availability.
For the new study, researchers recruited 135 adolescents who had CFS for almost 2 years; 68 were randomly assigned to receive FITNET treatment and 67 were given standard care involving individual and group therapy or graded exercise therapy.
After 6 months, adolescents in the FITNET program reported a reduction in severe fatigue (85 percent vs. 27 percent in the group receiving standard care). FITNET participants were also more likely to report normal physical functioning (78 percent vs. 20 percent) and full school attendance (75 percent vs. 16 percent).
"Web-based treatment has general advantages,” researchers noted. “It is available at any time, avoids face-to-face treatment barriers (i.e., treatment delay due to poor accessibility, inconvenience of scheduling appointments, missing school or work, travelling to or from a clinician's office), and reduces treatment time and costs."
FITNET is similar to cognitive behavior therapy – which aims to change thinking patterns – but takes place online, as opposed to the face-to-face counseling in traditional treatment. Participants logged onto a site to send and receive e-mails from therapists.