Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Feel Exhausted All The Time?

CFS/ME


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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Contents

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
What Are The Symptoms?
What Causes It?
Who Is More Likely To Develop It?
How Is It Diagnosed?
How Is It Treated?
Will I Have It For Ever?




Articles In This Section:

Symptoms
Causes
Tests
Treatment

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Bone and Joint Problems

Other names:
- Chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).
- Chronic fatigue.
- Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), term used in the U.K.
- Chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome and the Yuppie Flu (in the past)
- Post-viral fatigue.

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes continual tiredness that is not relieved by rest. There is no known cause or cure. Until recently people who suffered from CFS would go from doctor to doctor looking for a diagnosis, only to be told it's all in their head. They often found themselves ineligible for disability benefits because their illness did not fit any defined medical category. In 1988, even though no specific cause was found, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finally recognized CFS as an official medical problem. One millions Americans are estimated to have CFS, and the incidence rate is twice as high in women as men. Surveys show that up to three quarters of sufferers have lost their job because of their condition. Others who manage to continue working have to give up social activities to spend their evenings and weekends resting.

What Are The Symptoms?

CFS typically begins suddenly with flu-like symptoms, but instead of gradually improving after a few days, the symptoms remain for 6 months of more. It is accompanied by a debilitating exhaustion (many sufferers spend their days in bed) that is not relieved by sleep. It worsens after exercise which previously the person would have done without any problems. Read more about the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

What Causes It?

The exact cause of CFS is not known, although there are a number of theories. For a while researchers hoped to discover one virus that may have been the culprit - initially they thought it could be the Epstein-Barr virus, but it did not explain all the cases. It is now suspected that not all people with CFS suffer from precisely the same disorder but rather from a related number of syndromes. Read more about the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Who Is More Likely To Develop It?

It typically affects people in their early 20s to mid 40s (average age 30). It is not generally seen in children or adults over the age of 65.

** According to surveys, CFS is thought to affect 4 in every 1,000 Americans.
** Between 1 and 4 million Americans have the illness (250,000 in the UK). Only half have seen their doctor about it.
** Between 60 and 80 percent of people with this syndrome have long-standing allergies.
** 1 in 3 sufferers have a history of psychiatric disorders.
** It most commonly affects people between the age of 40 and 50.
** CFS affects twice as many women as men. This may be because CFS is linked to an immune system problem and women are more susceptible to disorders of the immune system such as lupus, thyroid disease and multiple sclerosis.

How Is It Diagnosed?

There is no specific test for CFS. The CDC issued guidelines to help doctors diagnose the syndrome:

1. First the patient must experiene fatigue severe enough to have interfered with everyday life for at least 6 months.
2. Other possible causes of fatigue are ruled out by tests, including thyroid problems, infections, liver and kidney disease and psychological illnesses.
3. Once the first two conditions are met, the doctor must confirm the presence of at least 4 symptoms associated with CFS. See diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome for more details.

How Is It Treated?

There is no cure for CFS because doctors still don't know what causes it. Instead treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. Those most severely affected are recommended a healthy diet, to get ample rest and to exercise when possible. Low doses of antidepressants can sometimes improve sleep quality and reduce muscle pain. For more see treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Will I Have It For Ever?

Although the condition can be disabling, it is not progressive - that means, it does not become progressively worse. The prognosis for those with the condition appear to fall into 4 categories:

1. Complete recovery and return to normal health. This group is fairly small.
2. The majority of patients follow a fluctuating pattern, with periods of good health followed by bouts of bad health. Relapses often follow periods of stress, extreme temperatures or infections.
3. Significant minority remain constantly and severely affected, they require a great deal of practical and emotional support.
4. A very small minority continue to deteriorate (which as already mentioned is highly unusual with CFS). In these instances further medical tests are recommended to look for other underlying causes.


Related Questions

Compare symptoms:
What is the difference between chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia?:
Possible causes of tiredness:
Why am I so tired all the time?

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For more information, see the following:

Fibromyalgia Guide: Another chronic pain syndrome.

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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
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