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Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

A complex disorder that causes overwhelming fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) lasts for a long time and interferes with daily life.

chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), CFS symptoms, CFS causes, CFS treatment

CFS usually affects women, especially in their 40s and 50s, and it can last for years. Because the symptoms of CFS resemble many other conditions, such as fibromyalgia, it’s often difficult to diagnose. CFS can be as disabling as other chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic fatigue causes The cause of CFS is unknown. There are a variety of theories: for example, the condition may be triggered by a virus, such as mononucleosis. Some experts have suggested that CFS may be the result of an immune system dysfunction or that triggering events, such as stress, or toxins may be to blame. But multiple causes may also be at the root of CFS.

Chronic fatigue symptoms Severe fatigue that lasts longer than six months is the main symptom of CFS. Others may include muscle and joint pain, memory problems, headaches, sleep problems, sore throat and tender lymph nodes. Symptoms of CFS may get worse when you engage in physical or mental activities. Many people with CFS also experience irritable bowel syndrome, depression, night sweats, allergies or food sensitivities, visual disturbances and dizziness.

Chronic fatigue diagnosis/tests There are no specific tests available to concretely confirm a diagnosis of CFS. In order to be diagnosed, you must have severe chronic fatigue for at least six months that doesn’t improve with sleep and isn’t the result of a mental or psychiatric condition and you must have four or more symptoms (impaired memory or concentration; frequent sore throats; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; joint pain in multiple joints; headaches; feelings of exhaustion or malaise after activity and unrefreshing sleep). Your doctor will want to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as sleep apnea or hypothyroidism, a thyroid disease, so she may send you to a sleep clinic for testing or order blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels.

Chronic fatigue treatment There is no cure for CFS, so the goal is to improve symptoms.

Medications Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can be used to treat symptoms, such as sleep difficulties, depression, pain and other problems.

Counseling CFS has such a dramatic affect on a person’s life that sufferers may benefit from professional counseling to learn coping skills.Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help chronically ill people develop behaviours and strategies that improve symptoms. Meeting with a support group of other people with CFS may also be beneficial.

Graded exercise therapy (GET) is physical activity that is started slowly with a plan to gradually increase it over time. A GET program may begin with a mere five minutes a day, which may be helpful for CFS sufferers. Doing stretching, yoga and tai chi may also be beneficial.

Symptom relief The symptoms of CFS are wide-ranging and treatment will include dealing with them individually. For example, tackling memory problems using memory training and memory aids.

Chronic fatigue prevention Since the cause of CFS is unknown there is no known way to reduce your risk.

Outside resources
CDC Health Information