What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a catchphrase in the health and wellness sector. But it is not to be taken lightly.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome or symptoms of it will say that it is debilitating and affects every area of their life.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is sometimes called myalgic encephalomyelitis.
CFS is more than just being a little tired. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can make it difficult to learn, work, perform daily activities, and even get out of bed.
What are the symptoms of CFS?
While sleep problems are a common symptom of this, people with CFS will still feel very tired even after they rest.
It can be difficult to be physically active or do mentally strenuous tasks as symptoms may have worsened afterwards, known as post-exertional discomfort, which can last for over twenty-four hours. You may have other symptoms that interfere with daily activities, such as memory and concentration problems, insomnia, weakness, and muscle pain.
In addition to fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome has eight characteristic symptoms:
- Pain in multiple joints.
- Feeling unwell after exertion.
- Muscle pain.
- Significant impairment of memory and concentration.
- Sore throat.
- Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes.
- Headache that represents a new pattern, type, or severity.
- Sleep that does not refresh you.
About twenty to fifty percent of people with CFS may also experience less common symptoms, including:
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Jaw pain
- Morning stiffness
- Night sweats
- Abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea
- Alcohol intolerance
- Chest pain or chronic cough
- An irregular heartbeat
- Skin tingling or tingling sensation
- Weight loss
- Mental health problems such as depression, irritability, anxiety, and panic attacks.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The cause of CFS is unknown, but researchers have different theories addressing psychological, immunological, endocrine, and nervous system causes.
As with many chronic diseases, genetics and environmental factors can play a role in the development of CFS.
How is CFS Diagnosed?
It’s not uncommon for people to have symptoms that last for years without a clear diagnosis.
The tricky thing is that there are no accurate tests for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or physical markers to look for. Everything is based on the symptoms reported.
Diagnosis is further complicated because symptoms are similar to other diseases such as fibromyalgia, narcolepsy, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, chronic mononucleosis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, hormonal disorders, and others.
The symptoms of CFS can also resemble mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, eating disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, bipolar affective disorder, and clinical depression.
If your doctor suspects you have CFS, you may need to be evaluated for numerous other diseases and conditions before a diagnosis of CFS is made. This is meant to rule out any conditions that are actually treatable.
In 1994, an international panel of research experts for chronic fatigue syndrome outlined diagnostic criteria to aid in diagnosis.
The two criteria a patient must meet in order to be diagnosed are:
- “Have severe chronic fatigue of six months or more with other known conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis.”
- “Have four or more of the following symptoms at the same time: significant impairment of short-term memory or concentration; Sore throat; tender lymph nodes; Muscle pain; Multiple joint pain without swelling or redness; Headache of a new type, pattern, or severity; not refreshing sleep; and post-exercise discomfort that lasts for more than 24 hours. “
They also state that symptoms should not have started before fatigue and that they should have lasted for six or more consecutive months.
Who is at risk for CFS?
An estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million people in the United States have chronic fatigue syndrome, while fewer than twenty percent of those people have received a definitive diagnosis from a health care provider.
Of course, this does not mean that there are only humans in the US. People all over the world have chronic fatigue syndrome of all races and ethnicities. It is believed to be as common against blacks as it is among Hispanics and whites.
People between forty and sixty are most likely to get it, but anyone can. It is more common in women and women, and affects women at four times the rate of men.
Younger people can get it, but it’s more common in teenagers than children.
Accurate statistics do not exist on who is most at risk of developing CFS as these are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
How is CFS Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the treatments available may not help all patients.
Experts usually recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and drug therapies.
Lifestyle changes usually revolve around dietary restrictions, reducing stress levels, preventing overexertion, gentle stretching, moderate physical therapy without overexertion, and taking supplements.
As a rule, the sooner someone starts treatment, the better. Experts found that people who were diagnosed for less than two years were more likely to get better. Complete recovery is rare, occurring in about five to ten percent of patients while an average of forty percent of patients have seen some improvement in symptoms.
If you think you may have chronic fatigue syndrome, follow up your symptoms and contact your doctor. As frustrating as it may be, you may have to find multiple providers and get different opinions before coming up with a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Just be through the process.