One of the most controversial areas in medicine today is the issue of Epstein-Barr Virus Disease. While some medical doctors and researches believe that Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus Disease (CEBV) not only exists but is at epidemic proportions here in the U.S. others believe and are adamant that CEBV is just a hoax, a fad, "the disease of the month," an excuse to rationalize fatigue and depression. Large numbers on non-medical "sufferers" of CEBV, however, are coming forward to tell their stories of the problems that they have been suffering, some for years. With or without a name for it, they see their symptoms fitting those that are most frequently used to define CEBV.
Those experts who believe in CEBV, often claim that both children and adults may suffer for many years, from one or more combinations of often debilitating symptoms which can include:
Fever, fatigue, sore throat, swollen glands, joint pains, ear and muscle aches, breathing pains, heat, cold and light sensitivity, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, chills, stomach pain weight loss, rashes, sleep problems, dizziness, hair loss, night sweats, alcohol intolerance, bladder dysfunction, lack of physical or speech coordination, swelling of eyelids or hands and fingers, odd sensations in the nerves or skin, confusion, inability, to concentrate, impaired reasoning, memory loss, depression, anxiety and mood swings.
These experts suggest that often individuals who seek medical attention are missed diagnosed with conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to lupus, to psychosomatic problems and even hypochondria. Often patients come to doctors with long lists of symptoms, symptoms having long durations and often significant severity. The physician may not even think about CEBV. Most doctors are taught that "mononucleosis" is that of a short term, non-reoccurring illness. CEBV infection, they say, is different from mononucleosis, it is a separate disease entity own. Some people who later develop CEBV have had full blown "mono" initially, while others have much milder symptoms with their initial infection.
EBV is believed to be one of the most common viruses affecting humans. It is a member of the herpes virus' family and infects the antibody-producing white blood cells known as B-cells. It remains in these cells in latent form long after the body's natural defenses have brought the infection under control. The initial episode, and type and degree of the symptoms, often differ from person to person. They frequently depend on age, sex and the state of the immune system at the time of the first exposure. Reactivation may occur at times when the immune system is "less effective" than normal in otherwise healthy people, those individuals on immunosuppressive drugs or during pregnancy. There is some evidence of a hereditary basis. There appears to be a relationship to some form of allergy. Eighty-five percent of patients with CEBV have active allergy problems, often these allergies appear to increase CEBV symptoms during high allergy periods. There is some connection to systemic monilia infection. The interrelationship to allergy and monilia are still unclear.
Is CEBV Dangerous?
Generally speaking the answer to this question is, No. There have been few deaths that have been directly related to complications of CEBV. There is question about association with certain lymphomas and other cancers but no direct evidence of relationship. The major problem is the degree of the effect of the symptoms on the infected person. I have personally known one individual that committed suicide because of the severity of the symptoms. Many others may have to make major changes in their lives and in their life plans.
How Can I Tell If I Have CEBV?
Many people that are infected with EBV have little or no symptoms. It has been estimated that some 70% or more Americans have been exposed to EBV. Others develop mononucleosis ("mono") which goes away in a short time. CEBV is different from mono because its symptoms (described above) can linger a very long time, coming and going due to some unknown stimulant. Women are generally twice as often affected as compared to men. However, both men and women share the same severity of symptoms. If you, or a member of your family, have some or any of the above symptoms, especially the fatigue, loss of ability to function, fevers, unknown abdominal pain or joint pains you might suspect CEBV. Once CEBV is suspected, a blood EBV antibody titer should be performed. It is through the complex of symptoms determined on the medical history, the findings of the medical examination and the blood antibody titer levels that ultimately lead to this diagnosis. The blood levels of antibodies may need to be checked more then once in order to accurately make a diagnoses. A change in the blood titer levels demonstrates active infection or recurrence of CEBV infection.
Is the Disease Contagious?
The answer is yes and no. EBV is a common virus and is spread through oral (kissing, sharing of eating and drinking utensils, etc.) and possibly through sexual contact yet everyone exposed to it does not end up getting it. As stated above the state of the immune system of the individual exposed to it is very important. It is less likely to take hold and infect an otherwise healthy, emotionally stable individual. There is no indication that relatives become infected in normal living situations.
How is CEBV Treated?
There is no specific treatment for CEBV. Individual symptoms must be treated symptomatically. The most promising method of treatment appears to be activating the immune system. This is done through a series of indirect methods such as; diet, high dosage vitamins and minerals, rest, exercise, affirmations, visual imagery and positive thinking. There are no prescription medications that are antiviral of proven or suspected value. Immune Support Intravenous Drip Therapy (high dosages of vitamins and minerals given two to three times weekly intravenously) while still in research mode has shown promise. When necessary prescription or natural products used to reduce inflammation, obtain analgesia, help with sleep, reduce anxiety or depression may be helpful or even necessary.
Unfortunately most often, nothing seems to help. Patients and faith are most important in waiting for the particular episode to remit. While we don't talk about a cure we often see that after some period of time (weeks to years) the disease appears to burn itself out and the symptoms either gradually or suddenly disappear. The hard part is often waiting and having patience until this happens. The most difficult part of CEBV is living with its effects on the life of the individual.
Does CEBV Really Exist?
While many people do believe that CEBV is a real disease entity others believe that it is not. In fact, many physicians believe that CEBV doesn't exist. Some physicians believe that it occurs as a secondary problem to chronic yeast infection. Still others believe that Epstein-Barr virus does not cause the problems listed above but rather, that it is secondary to another process entirely. I, myself believe that the primary process is a kind of depression, wherein the immune system is depressed along with other biologic processes of the body.
In this conceptualization the cause of the symptoms is the kind of depression where faulty beliefs, lies, guilt and shame have been suppressed for many years. When this happens the body/mind does not allow these conflicts into our conscious awareness. This causes a constant state of stress, Fight or Flight, which over a long period of time undermines the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to infection, especially yeast and CEBV. This process while regulated through the stress mechanism is in itself not part of the stress mechanism, but rather an affect of its overwhelm and long term over stimulation. In order to cure this process, the depression must be tackled and resolved. In this sense Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of a long list of conditions known as Stress-Related Disorders.