Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS is an unexplainable disorder marked by severe fatigue. The affected individuals find that their extreme tiredness does not get better with rest and lasts for around 6 months or more. People with this syndrome  face difficulties in concentration and memory, and discover that their condition gets worse with mental and physical activity.

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The treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome is primarily intended to relieve the symptoms. Treatment could be a combination of medication and therapy, depending on the specific needs of the affected individual. He or she may need to undergo various diagnostic tests to discount other medical conditions that show the same symptoms.

Occurrence of CFS

The exact number of people affected by CFS is difficult to determine because the affected individuals may not know that they are suffering from it, thereby the condition often goes undiagnosed. The syndrome is estimated to affect around 2 out of 1,000 Americans, of which most are women. This could be because women are more inclined to discuss their symptoms with their doctors than men. In addition, CFS is also common among middle-aged individuals who are 40 to 50 years old; although it is also seen among adolescents.Additionally, it tends to be frequent among people who are living sedentary and stressful lifestyles.

Causes

Experts are still in the dark as to the cause of CFS but they believe that it does not occur due to a single factor. More often, this condition occurs due to a combination of several factors. The condition is more likely to affect individuals who have the following risk factors.

  • Compromised immunity

People affected by CFS tend to have compromised immunity, though experts are still studying its connection to CFS. 

  • Hormonal imbalances

There are also times when the hormones produced by the adrenal and pituitary glands of the affected individuals become abnormal, and experts are studying how this influences the development of CFS. 

  • Viral infections

Experts are studying which type of viruses may trigger CFS as some patients have the disorder after bouts of viral infections. Viruses such as mouse leukemia and Epstein-Barr are thought to cause this condition.

Symptoms

The following are the distinctive symptoms of CFS.

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  • Fatigue

This is the main symptom of CFS which is difficult to explain, lasting for several months to years. The onset of the syndrome typically occurs following an episode of infection. 

  • Depression

People affected by CFS are often depressed due to the lack of ability to do even the most basic job at home or at work. 

  • Poor memory and concentration

Affected individuals find it hard to remember some conversational words. 

  • Extreme exhaustion

This is often felt after performing even the lightest activity, and lasts up to 24 hours.

People with CFS also have persistent spells of unexplained muscle aches, headaches, fever and sore throats. Some people also notice inflamed lymph nodes on their armpits and neck. A visit to the doctor is highly recommended upon experiencing chronic fatigue to rule out any medical disorder.

Effects of delaying the diagnosis and treatment of CFS

Chronic fatigue syndrome could severely affect the overall quality of life of the person. The disorder may force the individual to make frequent work absences. He or she may also avoid socializing with others due to depression. And because the disorder prevents the individual from doing even the simplest activity, he or she may have to deal with huge lifestyle restrictions.

 Diagnosis

There is no specific test to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome due to the similarity of its symptoms to other health problems. Diagnosing CFS involves ruling out other medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms such as fibromyalgia, severe obesity, depressive disorders, sleep disorders, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Lyme disease and mononucleosis.

The side effects of some drugs also resemble CFS symptoms, so the doctor needs a detailed history of the patient’s medical, mental and physical condition. A patient will only be diagnosed with CFS if he or she meets the following criteria:

  • Persistent and unexplained fatigue that does not alleviate with rest and lasts for about 6 months or more.
  • Experiences any four of the CFS symptoms for 6 months or more such as muscle pain, recurring sore throat, inflamed lymph nodes, persistent headaches, impaired mental concentration and memory and prolonged exhaustion after mental or physical activity.

Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The treatment for CFS helps the patient manage the symptoms, therefore improving the quality of life. It is individually designed to facilitate the specific needs of the patient, depending on the degree of the symptoms. Taking drugs such as sleeping pills and antidepressants may be necessitated to treat the condition. Moreover, therapy made up of graded exercises and psychological counseling also proves effective.

Chronic fatigue syndrome can severely affect the overall quality of life of the patient, and so learning how to manage the symptoms will help the individual deal with the restrictions imposed by CFS.

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