Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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1 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Introduction Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a disorder that causes extreme and ongoing fatigue, also known as tiredness. This type of fatigue does not go away after rest, but instead lasts a long time and limits the ability to do daily activities. No one knows what causes CFS. It is most common in women in their 40s and 50s, but anyone can have it. Since other illnesses can cause similar symptoms, CFS is hard to diagnose. This reference summary will help you understand chronic fatigue syndrome. It covers the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of CFS. What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a potentially devastating and complex disorder. People with CFS have overwhelming fatigue, or tiredness, as well as many other symptoms that do not improve with rest. It is a real and serious illness. CFS can get worse after physical activity or mental exertion. People with CFS often function at a much lower level of activity than they were capable of before they became ill. In some cases, CFS can last for years. This can greatly affect day to day activities and relationships. 1

2 Symptoms As the name chronic fatigue syndrome suggests, fatigue is a major symptom of this illness. The fatigue caused by CFS is not the kind you feel after a very busy day or week, sleepless night, or stressful event. It does not go away after you rest. Instead, the fatigue of CFS lasts a long time and limits your ability to do daily activities. It must last 6 months or more for it to be caused by CFS. Other symptoms of CFS include: Difficulty concentrating. Headaches. Memory problems. Muscle pain. Pain in multiple joints. Sleep problems. Sore throat. Tender lymph nodes. Many CFS patients experience other symptoms, including: Allergies or sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications, or noise. Chills and night sweats. Confusion and forgetfulness. Depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks. Dizziness, balance problems, or fainting. Feeling detached. Irritable bowel. Sensitivity to light, blurring, eye pain. It's important to tell your healthcare provider if you're experiencing any of these symptoms. You might have CFS, or you might have another treatable disorder. 2

3 Causes No one knows what causes CFS. There is no cure for it. It is possible that CFS has multiple causes. CFS could be related to: Viral infections. Immune disorders. Hormonal imbalances. Other health problems. Some scientists are studying certain viruses as a possible cause of CFS. This is because some people develop CFS symptoms after having a viral infection. It may be possible that a virus could trigger CFS. But no solid link has been discovered yet. Researchers have also studied the immune systems of patients with CFS. In some patients, the immune system appears to be slightly impaired. But there is not enough evidence to say that CFS is caused by these impairments. Some patients with CFS also have abnormal blood levels of certain hormones. Researchers are trying to figure out if there is a connection between the hormone imbalances and CFS. As of now, no solid connection has been found. Diagnosis Since other illnesses can cause similar symptoms, CFS is hard to diagnose. To receive a diagnosis of CFS, you must have unexplained and ongoing fatigue for 6 months or more. The fatigue must also be unrelieved by bed rest and must be accompanied by other symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, generalized pain, and memory problems. CFS cannot be diagnosed with a blood test, brain scan, or other lab test. Instead, healthcare providers must rule out other possible causes, such as sleep disorders, medical problems, and mental health issues. A healthcare provider will take a detailed medical history. A physical and mental health examination is also needed to make a diagnosis. These exams can help rule out other health problems that may be causing your symptoms. 3

4 Other possible causes for your symptoms may be ruled out using a number of lab tests. The tests cannot tell whether you have CFS. Instead, the tests can help identify other possible causes of the symptoms that could be treated. Treatment There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. The goal of CFS treatment is to relieve its symptoms. Treatment may include medications, therapy, exercise, or a combination of these treatments. Medications used to treat the symptoms of CFS include: Antidepressants, to make it easier to deal with the problems associated with CFS, improve sleep, and reduce pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, to help with headaches and muscle or joint pain. Sleeping pills, to help you get better rest at night. Therapy, or psychological counseling, is another treatment used for CFS. Talking to a trained professional can help you learn about ways to deal with the social and emotional problems caused by CFS. Exercise may also help some people with CFS. Talk to your healthcare provider about exercises that can help improve your symptoms. The symptoms of CFS change a lot over time. You should talk to your healthcare provider if you notice a change in symptoms. You may find it helpful to keep a record of your symptoms. This helps you and your healthcare provider see how they have changed over time. Your healthcare provider can work with you to come up with a treatment plan that addresses the symptoms that are the most disruptive or disabling. Summary Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a disorder that causes extreme and ongoing fatigue, also known as tiredness. This type of fatigue does not go away after rest, but instead lasts a long time and limits the ability to do daily activities. 4

5 No one knows what causes CFS. It is most common in women in their 40s and 50s, but anyone can have it. Since other illnesses can cause similar symptoms, CFS is hard to diagnose. Other causes of your symptoms must first be eliminated. There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Treatment may include medications, therapy, exercise, or a combination of these treatments. Your healthcare provider can work with you to come up with a treatment plan that addresses the symptoms that are the most disruptive or disabling. 5

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