Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as a condition that involves a severe fatigue that usually has a clear starting point, often after a bout of illness, and that doesn't improve after rest. It makes you less able to cope with levels of activity in your work, school or social life that were previously normal for you. With chronic fatigue syndrome even normal physical activity may make you feel very tired.
Why should I be aware of this?
Chronic fatigue syndrome, which was earlier dismissed as signs of laziness or a symptom of hypochondria, is today a major public health concern and affects more people than lupus, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis.
The cause for chronic fatigue syndrome till now is attributed only to infections to a person’s immune system. No single virus has been identified as the obvious cause. The disease may make some people unable to perform their normal daily activities. Though chronic fatigue syndrome generally affects people in their 40's and 50's, it can also affect people of any age, race or ethnic background. It is more common in women than men, but men can also be affected by this illness.
How does this affect me?
The fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome is real though it may often be thought of as imaginary. The difficulty to diagnose the illness may make us think that the fatigue is imaginary. But that's not true. The people around should believe in your diagnosis and support you. Chronic fatigue syndrome is something which is very difficult to deal with alone. It can make a big difference when family and friends support you.
Chronic fatigue syndrome often makes one feel guilty though there is no reason for guilt. Guilt only brings about stress which goes to worsen your condition.
All about chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a short-term illness and affects different people in different ways. It can take anything from four months to years to recover from it. As it is now being considered as a physical problem requiring medical intervention, many sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome are subjected to minimal daily activities and are often confined to their homes because of lack of energy.
The symptoms can change over time and every few months a review of treatment is necessary by either a GP or a specialist. Even then if the treatment doesn’t work, the patient is referred to a multidisciplinary team including a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and liaison nurse.
- Joint and muscle and joint pain with no swelling
- Fatigue lasting for more than 24 hours after a level of activity which earlier never made you tired
- Forgetfulness, loss of memory, confusion, or difficulty concentrating
- Disturbed sleep - Feeling tired or unrested even after sleep, or having trouble going to sleep.
- Flu-like symptoms
Other probable symptoms
- Feeling faint or problems with balance
- Painful glands in your neck or armpits
- Sore throat
- Sick feeling
- Mood swings
If such nagging symptoms persist and the patient visits a doctor, he will be subjected to a battery of tests to rule out any other cause. Examinations and tests are carried out to find out about the conditions of the liver, thyroid, and adrenal gland function. Blood tests are also conducted.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can be diagnose only by rule other possibilities out as there is no viable test for diagnosing this disease. Also, as of now, there are no actual treatments for CFS.
Studies have shown that CFS can be triggered by a physical or mental stressor, and are both characterized as having genes which cause dysfunctional immune systems. It is for this reason that chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers are advised to avoid stress as they do not biologically respond to everyday stressors. The body tends to get over-stimulated in response to stress.
What can I do?
- Try doing less of what you sued to do earlier: Maintain a diary and note all the activities that make you feel really tired. A therapist, by looking at your diary notings, can suggest changes to help you save energy.
- Maintain regular exercise: To lessen body aches and joint and muscle pain and increase your energy level. But don’t start any exercise before consulting your doctor. Your doctor can help you create a plan that is right for you. Don't exercise too much as it can cause more tiredness.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with body aches, headaches, and muscle and joint pain.
- Antidepressants can help improve sleep and ease pain.
- Alternative therapies: Some people say their CFS symptoms get better with complementary or alternative treatments, such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga, stretching, or self-hypnosis. But consult your doctor before trying alternative therapies.
How to cope with CFS
It’s normal to feel cranky, sad, angry, or upset when you have an illness like CFS. Here are some things you can do that may help you to feel better:
- Talk therapy can help you learn how to deal with your feelings.
- Join a CFS support group. Sometimes talking to people who are going through the same problem can help.
- Between 1 and 4 million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome . Yet, only about half have consulted a physician for their illness. 
- Although CFS is much less common in children than in adults, children can develop the illness, particularly during the teen years.
- CFS occurs up to four times more frequently in women than in men
- CFS is sometimes seen in members of the same family, but there's no evidence that it's contagious. Instead, there may be a familial or genetic propensity.
There are still many doctors who question the validity of chronic fatigue syndrome and, among doctors who do believe the condition exists, there is still fierce debate over whether its origins are of a physical or psychological nature. 
- What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Could a Cure Be Around the Corner?
- Frequently asked questions