If you constantly feel exhausted, can’t find it in you to get out of bed, without any proper reason for it, you should go to see a doctor. You could be suffering from an illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
This debilitating disorder is characterized by extreme fatigue and exhaustion. You might be taking adequate rest but that wouldn’t have any effect on CFS. It cannot be identified with any underlying medical condition either. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), or Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID).
What are its symptoms?
It has eight official symptoms apart from fatigue. If you experience them, do not hesitate to visit your practitioner.
The following symptoms may be signs of CFS: having a sore throat, having trouble with concentration or suffering from frequent loss of memory, unexplained muscle pain in any part of your body, notice enlarged lymph nodes under your armpits and/or neck, pain that travels from one joint to the other, without prior history of joint pains. The pain is also not accompanied by any swelling or redness, headache which feels different from the usual ones you get, waking up from sleep, not feeling fresh, experiencing extreme exhaustion which lasts a full day after physical or mental exercise.
Even if you aren’t sure that you’re suffering from CFS, extreme fatigue could be a symptom for other ailments, so it’s best that a doctor is consulted in any case. People sometimes suffer from it in cycles. While it never really goes away completely, there are phases of extremities. You may feel it has gone completely into remission, but there’s a high chance of recurrence.
What causes it?
Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes it. Researchers and doctors believe that certain viruses, a weak immune system, stress and hormonal imbalance could be contributing factors. Some also believe that it could be a genetic thing.
Viral infections: Though no conclusive link has been found, it has been seen that people tend to develop CFS after certain kinds of viral infections. Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6, mouse leukemia virus, are some such viruses. Weak immune system: People with weakened immune system have a tendency to have CFS. Hormonal imbalance: Abnormal hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands are noticed in people who suspect of suffering from CFS
However, all these are mostly based on assumptions and there is conclusive proof that any of these definitely cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Many believe that it isn’t one, but several factors, when they come together, trigger this syndrome.
Who can suffer from CFS?
It is seen that most people who are affected by this disorder are those in their 40’s and 50’s. Women have a tendency to suffer from it more than men. Those suffering from genetic predisposition, allergies, stress, may be at higher risk of contracting it.
How is CFS diagnosed?
There isn’t any one test that can diagnose CFS. So, doctors usually rule out all other ailments which have similar symptoms. To be diagnosed with CFS, you must show at least four of the abovementioned symptoms. Other ailments with similar symptoms are Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, mononucleosis, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, and major depressive disorder. Those who are obese could also experience similar symptoms. Side effects of antihistamines and alcohol are also similar.
Since these symptoms could mean any of these mentioned ailments, it is important to consult your doctor immediately.
For the doctor to conclusively decide that you have CFS, he would use the following steps.
He would have ruled out all the other illnesses mentioned above. He would ensure that the symptoms have been there for at least 6 months in adults and 3 months in children. You should experience all these symptoms: pain, sleep issues, feeling ill after any activity and extreme physical and mental fatigue
Then he would check if you’ve shown at least two of these symptoms: Memory loss, lack of concentration, difficulty to remember words. Feeling confused, disoriented or slow thinking process. Extra sensitive to sound, light or emotions. Muscle weakness or muscle coordination issues
Finally, he would check if you’ve experienced at least two or more of these symptoms: Flu-like symptoms- sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, feeling sensitive towards certain smells, foods, medicines and chemicals. Body temperature lower than normal, sweating, cold hands and feet, feeling sick under stress. Dizziness, shortness of breath when active and fast heartbeat. If you check out on all these, you would be diagnosed with CFS.
How to treat it?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome doesn’t have a specific cure and as each person could show a mixture of variety of these symptoms, they have to be treated on a case by case basis. However, there are some remedies available to provide relief.
Changes in lifestyle: Limiting or completely eliminating caffeine from your diet can help you sleep better. Smoking and drinking should be very restricted too. Don’t sleep in the day and create a sleep routine. Going to sleep at a certain time and waking up at a certain time every day, can help bring a pattern. Overexertion makes it worse, so plan your activities in a way that the exertion is divided through the day and there isn’t one particular time when you’re overstressed. Make sure you have some time allocated to relax and do the things you enjoy doing
Therapy: Mayo Clinic suggests psychological counselling and physical therapy are great options that bring significant relief
Medication: Since this Syndrome causes depression, antidepressants are often prescribed. Sleeping pills are also offered to those who despite trying everything aren’t getting enough sleep
CFS can cause you to suffer depression, isolation from society, poor performance at work and increased absence, among other things. So, if you do not understand why you are feeling these symptoms, go to a doctor and get yourself checked before it becomes severe and unmanageable.
Do you know someone else who may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Please share this story with them so that they can get healthy!Share on Facebook
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Brother or sister,
1. Our bodies are God’s temple.
2. Our bodies need rest.
3. We need to take care of our bodies, so we can be strong to care for those around us.
Do you know someone else who may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Please share this story with them so that they can get healthy!
God bless you and your family,
Aaron Tabor, MD