Work rehabilitation and medical retirement for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients. A review and appraisal of diagnostic strategies
by Mark Vink and Friso Vink-Niese in Diagnostics 2019, 9(4), 124; [https://doi.org/10.3390/diagnostics9040124] Published: 20 September 2019
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome leads to severe functional impairment and work disability in a considerable number of patients. The majority of patients who manage to continue or return to work, work part-time instead of full time in a physically less demanding job. The prognosis in terms of returning to work is poor if patients have been on long-term sick leave for more than two to three years. Being older and more ill when falling ill are associated with a worse employment outcome.
Cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy do not restore the ability to work. Consequently, many patients will eventually be medically retired depending on the requirements of the retirement policy, the progress that has been made since they have fallen ill in combination with the severity of their impairments compared to the sort of work they do or are offered to do.
However, there is one thing that occupational health physicians and other doctors can do to try and prevent chronic and severe incapacity in the absence of effective treatments. Patients who are given a period of enforced rest from the onset, have the best prognosis. Moreover, those who work or go back to work should not be forced to do more than they can to try and prevent relapses, long-term sick leave and medical retirement.