ImageMillions of Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, and vulvodynia. Current research indicates that these conditions frequently coexist or 'overlap,' yet all of the disorders are poorly understood.

As a result, health care providers receive little training in these types of disorders and many patients are misdiagnosed and receive inappropriate treatment. Research on the overlap of these conditions is in its infancy, so we donĂ¢??t know how/why they are connected. There are many unanswered questions. Some people suffer from two conditions, while others have three or more. In some cases, individuals suffer from one condition for many years before developing a second or third; in other cases, individuals experience symptoms of several conditions simultaneously.

These disorders make life very difficult for millions of sufferers and their families. In addition, they cost the United States tens of billions of dollars each year in medical expenses and lost productivity. An expanded federal research effort is urgently needed to investigate common underlying mechanisms and risk factors for these disorders, so that preventive strategies and more effective treatments can be developed.

The Overlapping Conditions Alliance ( is a group of independent nonprofit organizations seeking to advance the scientific, medical and policy needs of individuals affected by medical conditions that frequently overlap.

Organizations represented in the Alliance include:

Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America

Endometriosis Association

Interstitial Cystitis Association

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

TMJ Association

National Vulvodynia Association

To discuss these issues, see our forums by clicking here.