Demystifying Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). It is a multisystemic disease that causes dysfunction of the neurological, immune, endocrine, and energy metabolism systems. Individuals who have CFS experience extreme fatigue or tiredness that does not improve after long periods of rest. Stamina for physical and mental activities begins to degrade and these activities can make the fatigue worse.

CFS can affect anyone, including children. Although, it is more prevalent among women between 40 to 60 years of age. This disease has a negative effect on health, happiness, and productivity. This is because people with CFS have difficulty in carrying out or completing their normal daily activities.

What are the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The exact cause of the condition is unknown. However, experts suggest that the contributing factors may include:

  • Viral infections such as rubella, Ross River virus (RRV), Human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6), EpsteinBarr Virus (EBV), etc.
  • Bacterial infections such as chlamydia pneumonia
  • Immunosuppressive disorders
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Mental health problems such as emotional trauma, or stress
  • Genetics as CFS seems to run in families

What are the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The symptoms associated with the condition is based on the individual affected and the severity of the condition. Some of them include:

  • Severe fatigue that does not improve with rest
  • Loss of memory
  • Lack of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained joint pain and muscle aches
  • Feeling unrefreshed after a night sleep
  • Dizziness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or neck
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sensitivities to food, odours, chemicals, or noise
Loss of memory is a common symptom

How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosed?

The diagnosis of CFS is tricky and is often made after similar diseases have been ruled out. This can take time and may result in using treatment that an individual with CFS does not have. Also, the lack of awareness of this disease among patients and doctors can slow down the diagnosing process. Your doctor may do the following to rule out other potential causes:

  • A sleep study to determine if your rest is being disturbed by certain sleep disorders such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome.
  • An exercise test to assess your lungs and heart function because diseases of the heart and lungs can make you feel fatigue
  • Lab tests to check your blood for diabetes, hypothyroidism, or anaemia which can result in chronic fatigue
  • A psychiatric review to determine if mental health issues such as major depressive disorder or anxiety are not the cause of your symptoms.

Other conditions with similar symptoms include infectious mononucleosis, Lyme disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia.

How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome treated?

There is currently no cure for CFS and the focus of treatment is on symptom relief. As there are many cases with individuals having CFS and depression, treatment involves taking antidepressants to help relieve the symptoms of depression. Dietary changes, acupuncture, or yoga are recommended by some doctors to help resolve pain associated with the condition. Doing this can help the individual cope better with the CFS symptoms. The individuals should also minimize the amount of energy they spend on their daily activities as much as they can. Support from family and friends is also important.

A word from HealthFacts to you

Having such a debilitating condition such as chronic fatigue syndrome can be a lot to deal with alone. It is advised that people with this condition enjoy emotional support from friends and family. Also, given that there is still no cure, ensure you follow every instruction given to you by your doctor.

Till next time, stay informed and stay healthy!

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