2001 Clinical and Scientific Meeting

G.L. Robinson, D.L. Sparkes, T.K. Roberts, N.R. McGregor, R. Conway

University of Newcastle,
NSW, Australia

Contact Details:
Special Education Centre
University of Newcastle
NSW 2308

Biochemical anomalies in people with chronic fatigue syndrome who have visual problems: Implications for immune system dysfunction and dietary intervention

There has recently been an identification of biochemical anomalies in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and the range of symptoms for CFS include visual problems, which are similar to those reported by people identified as having a visual sub-type of dyslexia called Irlen Syndrome (IS). These visual problems in dyslexia have also been associated with biochemical anomalies, in particular abnormal fatty acid metabolism.

This paper will describe three investigations into possible biochemical anomalies, for people with CFS and visual processing problems. The preliminary investigation (143 subjects with CFS) identified a number of biochemical markers associated with symptom incidence which could result in a dysregulation of fatty acid metabolism. A more detailed analysis involved 67 subjects with CFS divided into two groups according to degree of symptoms of visual perceptual disability (IS). Significant differences were found in the metabolic profiles of the two groups, indicative of differences in connective tissue turnover due to infection or stress. There were also indications of alteration of neural functioning due to changes in neurotransmitters. Preliminary results for the third study (50 IS subjects and 50 age- and sex-matched controls) found differences in linoleic acid, tyrosine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid, which may indicate problems with fatty acid metabolism and neural functioning. The IS subjects also had a significantly higher incidence of allergies, gastrointestinal problems, kidney infections, and a higher incidence of fatigue, headaches, photophobia, and impaired concentration. The bacterial saturated fatty acid C17:0 was also found to be positively correlated with eye strain, and may indicate the presence of a pathogen. Similar C17:0 anomalies have been found in people with CFS.

The results of these studies confirm the association between CFS and visual processing problems, with essential fatty acid metabolism likely to be an indicator. The results also suggest a need for investigation of immune system dysfunction. Dietary intervention, targeting specific biochemical anomalies will also be discussed as a possible treatment option.


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