Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis
A debilitating disorder that is usually characterized only by intense fatigue, without a known cause is what chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is known as. Some associate chronic fatigue syndrome with a previous infection and some other consider it as a result of an un-diagnosable disease. Whatever the cause may be, chronic fatigue syndrome is a severe condition that persists for at least six months or more and hence, is deemed as a chronic disorder.
Definition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
Chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS is a complicated disorder that is characterized by an extreme and unusual feeling of fatigue and tiredness that does not go away with rest. Rather, it lasts long, limiting your ability to do ordinary daily activities.
Chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS should not be confused with general exhaustion and fatigue that can be generally associated with a cause; in other words it has no specific cause. Chronic fatigue syndrome is also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and also post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS).
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
From patient to patient, the severity of chronic fatigue syndrome varies. Ruling out all other causes, chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS persists with one common symptom of severe fatigue that is serious enough to interfere with daily activities. It must persist for at least six months and with bed rest, should not be cured. However, the other symptoms include –
- Not feeling fresh even after sleep
- Frequent sore throat, palpitation
- Muscle pain and headaches, twitching and tingling sensation in muscles are also a symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Multi-joint pain without any swelling or redness
- Tender lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
- After a physical activity, you may feel unwell for 24 hours at a stretch
- Feeling dizzy with low blood pressure can also be a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome
- Sweating and cold hands and feet
- Irritable bowel movement
- Allergies and sensitivities
- Marked change in weight.
Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS is one disorder that does not have any cause associated with it and hence, this makes treatment difficult. However, the recent studies and research associate the disorder with after-effects of some infections that has its impact on the immune system. Along with viruses and infection that can cause immune impairment, there are other causes like hypotension and hormonal problems that might contribute into this problem.
- Infection as a Cause for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Infections are most commonly associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Epstein-Barr virus infection, Human herpes virus 6 infection, Candida albicans, Coxiella burnetti, Bornaviruses, Ross River virus and of course the human retro viruses such as HIV and AIDS are the most common infections that are considered to be the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Causes Due To Immune System Disorders and Allergies: Immune system disorders and opportunistic infections and allergies are often considered to be causes of CFS.
- Hypothalamic-Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis and Hormonal Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis alters the release of a few hormones such as cortisol, corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). This has a significant impact on the fatigued condition.
Prognosis and Epidemiology of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
As per the reports of National Health Service, CFS is a very common disorder that occurs in about 250,000 people in UK, within the age group of 30 and 50. Overweight and inactive people are more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome in them and are more at risk. Reports from the Centre for Disease Control have shown that more than 1 million Americans have CFS. However, there are more than 80% cases that are left undiagnosed. Recovery, however, is limited with only a 5% rate of full recovery and only 39.5% being able to return to daily course of work. In many cases, the symptoms are seen to recur during the post-treatment follow up sessions.
Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
Since there are no lab tests that can screen the chronic fatigue syndrome, it is quite difficult to diagnose this disorder or condition. Probably that is the reason why more than 80% people in USA are left undiagnosed of CFS. If you have chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS, you might not get the specific symptoms that most diseases are associated with and since you do not even look sick, it is extremely difficult to diagnose CFS.
If you are having the above mentioned symptoms and extreme fatigue for more than six months, then it is highly possible that you are having chronic fatigue syndrome. However, it is also important that you make sure that your fatigue is not cured with bed rest and is not associated with any other disease.
When diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome, the symptoms of this disorder can be misdiagnosed as some other disease. Hence, it is very important that you make sure you do not confuse CFS with those diseases such as –
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lyme disease
Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
There is no treatment that can cure chronic fatigue syndrome. Depending on the symptoms, the treatment varies.
Medications to Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
The first method of treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome is supporting the health by trying to eliminate the symptoms with medicines. However, with time, the symptoms may vary. To eliminate the pain from the body, the doctor may suggest a few pain killers and for a restful night's sleep, a sleeping aid can be offered to you.
Home Treatments and Remedies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
For treating CFS, the home treatments and remedies are the most useful and important aspect. These include –
- Amidst fatigue, there will be times when you will feel a bit energised. A diary must be maintained to note these times. If a pattern is found for your chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, all the important works must be planned at that time.
- When you have energy, it must be made assured that too much works are not done in this time. It will make you even more tired and more difficult to recover.
- Sleep habits must be maintained properly, because if sleep is disturbed, it will add to your fatigue.
- It is very important to avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco from your daily consumption routine if you are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Bed and pillow should be of proper temperature and should be able to provide comfort.
These home remedies are easy to maintain and will offer great relief, although complete cure is not guaranteed.
Coping with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
As CFS does not have any treatment that can certainly cure this disorder, having support from a therapist is a good idea. There is an additional therapy procedure that is offered to patients to help them cope with this syndrome. There is a therapy called the Graded Exercise therapy in which a professional therapist will give you exercise regimes that will help you to increase your stamina levels. If you find that you are getting too tired, you are overdoing your exercise.
A psychological support will also help you to cope with this condition. It will give you the option to understand that you are not alone suffering from this condition of chronic fatigue syndrome.