Do you feel tired and lethargic even after being well rested? Are you one of those who constantly complain of fatigue and exhaustion from performing the bare minimum? You need to pay close attention to this, as it might be an underlying symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). It is a disorder that is characterized when a person feels too tired or exhausted, even after taking proper rest. It is sometimes also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).
All of us feel tired, but when this tiredness starts taking a toll on your day to day activities, and lasts for more than 6 months, it is a clear sign of CFS. Other noticeable signs are when you often wake up tired in the morning, or wake up frequently at night without any apparent reason, have troubles doing multitasking, feel dizzy or just feel like lying or sitting again as soon as possible, finding difficulty in fulfilling responsibilities at home or at work.
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Chronic fatigue syndrome is likely to occur two to four times more in women than men, especially women in the age bracket of 40-50. Though most cases are mild, 1 in every 4 cases develop severe symptoms later in their cycle. Nobody is safe from CFS, even children and teens can suffer from CFS. If you have light symptoms, you can manage fairly well, in case you have moderate symptoms, you might have problems moving around or working actively. However if you have severe symptoms, it can affect your life adversely and can be as bad as any heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Though these can vanish in some cases, what is known as remission, however these can also return or relapse.
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What causes CFS?
Although researchers and doctors haven’t yet come to any conclusion as to what can be the cause behind suffering from CFS, some researchers claim that following factors might be held responsible:
- Compromised/weak immune system
- Excessive stress
- Hormonal imbalances
- Genetic predisposition
Recognizing the symptoms of CFS
Though the symptoms might vary from person to person, there are certain signs that can lead you to recognize chronic fatigue syndrome sooner and better. Many of the symptoms of CFS can also be attributed to several other medical conditions. One needs to be watchful of the following symptoms:
- Feeling tired even after a good night’s sleep
- Chronic insomnia
- Extreme fatigue after physical activities (known as post-exertional malaise (PEM))
- Heart palpitations- fast or irregular heartbeats
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Muscle pain
- Blurred vision or seeing spots
- Recurring headaches
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
- Joint pain without redness or swelling
How is CFS diagnosed?
Currently there isn’t any particular diagnostic test for CFS. In fact, as many as 84%-91% suffering from CFS are yet to receive a diagnosis.
In CFS, people actually don’t look sick, hence the doctor cannot judge what condition they are suffering from.
- Your doctor might ask certain questions to rule out the possibility of other conditions to draw a conclusion. Doctors might want to know your medical history, they might order some tests such as vitamin D deficiency to rule out other potential causes of your fatigue.
- You doctors would want to make sure that you at least have the core symptoms previously mentioned, their duration and severity of your unexplained fatigue.
- They will also need to know the names of all the prescription and over-the-counter medicine you take, in case one of them is causing your symptoms. These may include any supplements, even so-called “natural” or “herbal” remedies that can have potential side effects, and they cause problems if used with other medications you’re taking.
- Tests like CBC blood tests or urine tests to rule out other conditions, such as anaemia can also be suggested.
- An underactive thyroid gland needs to be ruled out too.
What is the possible treatment for CFS?
Your medical examiner might suggest some over the counter medicines to tackle sleep disorders. Some doctors also suggest stimulants after weighing the pros and cons of this as it might not be the wisest option for people with CFS, as they can get irritated or agitated real quick. Medicines like ibuprofen or aspirin might help with the joint or the muscle pain that comes with CFS. For tackling orthostatic intolerance, other prescription drugs can be prescribed.
Though there is a lot of research still going on in understanding and finding a cure for CFS, certain lifestyle changes can be beneficial in reducing the discomfort to a great extent. Managing CFS can be challenging for some; they can take help from doctors, therapists, or some support group to tackle the post symptoms of CFS as well as their transition phase to come out more relaxed and happy. Working closely with your doctor is the best option as there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for CFS.
Making some positive changes in your day to day lifestyle can bring in great relief when dealing with CFS. Start with creating a regular sleep routine, if you are in the habit of sleeping in the afternoon, you might want to skip that and instead sleep on time at night. Avoid drinking alcohol and excessive caffeine, to ease insomnia problems. Make every effort to keep stress at bay, that’s really important! Yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and massages from time to time can also help with relieving some pain that comes with severe CFS. Always consult a doctor before beginning either exercising or going for medication therapy.