Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex, long-term disorder characterized by extreme fatigue or tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition.
CFS can also be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).
The most common symptom is fatigue that’s severe enough to interfere with your daily activities. For CFS to be diagnosed, a significantly reduced ability to perform your usual daily activities with fatigue must last for at least 6 months. It must not be curable with bed rest.
You will also experience extreme fatigue after physical or mental activities, which is referred to as post-exertional malaise (PEM). This can last for more than 24 hours after the activity.
CFS can also introduce sleep problems, such as –
• feeling unrefreshed after a night’s sleep
• chronic insomnia
• other sleep disorders
In addition, you may also experience –
• loss of memory
• reduced concentration
• orthostatic intolerance (going from lying or seated to standing positions makes you light-headed, dizzy, or faint)
Physical symptoms of CFS may include –
• muscle pain
• frequent headaches
• multi-joint pain without redness or swelling
• frequent sore throat
• tender and swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
CFS affects some people in cycles, with periods of feeling worse and then better.
Symptoms may sometimes even disappear completely, which is referred to as remission. However, it’s still possible for symptoms to return later, which is referred to as a relapse.
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown. Some people may be born with a predisposition for the disorder, which is then triggered by a combination of factors. Potential triggers include –
• Viral infections.
Because some people develop chronic fatigue syndrome after having a viral infection, researchers question whether some viruses might trigger the disorder. Suspicious viruses include the Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6. No conclusive link has yet been found.
• Immune system problems.
The immune systems of people who have chronic fatigue syndrome such as who go through severe Covid–Omicron infection recently, appear to be impaired slightly, but it’s unclear if this impairment is enough to actually cause the disorder.
• Hormonal imbalances.
People who have chronic fatigue syndrome also sometimes experience abnormal blood levels of hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands. But the significance of these abnormalities is still unknown.
• Physical or emotional trauma.
Some people report that they experienced an injury, surgery or significant emotional stress shortly before their symptoms began.
Risk Factors –
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic fatigue syndrome include –
• Age. Chronic fatigue syndrome can occur at any age, but it most commonly affects young to middle-aged adults.
• Sex. Women are diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome much more often than men, but it may be that women
Possible complications of chronic fatigue syndrome include –
• Lifestyle restrictions
• Increased work absences
• Social isolation
There are no medical tests to screen for CFS. Its symptoms are similar to many other conditions. Many people with CFS don’t “look sick,” so doctors may not recognize that they indeed have a health condition.
In order to receive a CFS diagnosis, your doctor will rule out other potential causes and review your medical history with you.
Treatment for CFS aims to relieve the symptoms. Your treatment will depend on how the condition is affecting you. While there is currently no cure for CFS, there are treatments that may help you manage the condition.
Treatments include –
• Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
• Energy management – where you’re given advice about how to make best use of the energy you have without making your symptoms worse
• Medicine to control symptoms such as pain and sleeping problems
Some people with CFS will improve over time, especially with treatment.
Many people with CFS will need to adapt their daily routine and pattern of activities on a long-term basis. There may be periods when your symptoms get better or worse.
Various strategies can help people manage CFS includes –
• finding a doctor who understands the condition
• seeking a counselor who can help manage the emotional and practical challenges
• making family and friends aware of the symptoms and challenges
• scheduling rest and activity times to maximize quality of life
• using calendars and journals to help with memory lapses
• learning which relaxation techniques are effective for them
• following a balanced and nutritious diet
• taking nutritional supplements, if tests reveal a deficiency
• finding someone to help with child care and household chores at difficult times, if possible.
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