Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a complex, long-term disorder marked by extreme fatigue or tiredness that does not improve with rest and its aetiology and prognosis are not fully understood. Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by severe and medically unexplainable fatigue for at least 6 months. CFS patients also experience many other symptoms, such as inattention and impaired short-term memory, sleep disturbances, muscle aches, and headaches.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can affect anyone, including children, however, it is mostly common in women between 40 and 60 years of age. Professionals say that CFS symptoms have negative effects on the individuals physical and mental health, and also on their productivity. This is because it is difficult for people with this disease to perform normal daily activities, sometimes including getting up. As mentioned before, the origin of the condition is unknown. Although, professionals have suggested that contributing factors may include: viral infections (e.g., Rubella, Ross River virus (RRV), Human herpesvirus 6, Epstein – Barr virus (EBV)), bacterial infections (e.g., chlamydia pneumonia), hormonal imbalance, mental problems such as emotional trauma, or stress. Genetics is also a contributing factor as CFS can run in the family.
Symptoms related to the condition depend on the individual affected and the severity of the condition. The most common symptoms can be listed as: severe fatigue that does not improve with rest, loss of memory and concentration, a sore throat, headaches, unexplained joint pain or muscle pain, feeling tired even after a long sleep, dizziness, enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or neck, sleep disorders, sensitivities to foods, odours, chemicals or noise.
As the symptoms of the condition are very similar to a variety of other illnesses, there is no specific test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, many individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome do not look ill, therefore it is difficult for the doctor to recognize the condition. However, in order to make a diagnosis, after the doctors review your medical history, it is possible for doctors to rule out other potential causes. For example, a sleep study to determine if your rest is affected by certain sleep disorders (such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome), because chronic fatigue can be caused by sleep disorders. An exercise test to assess the lungs and heart function, because heart and lung problems can make you feel tired. Laboratory tests to analyse your blood for evidence of diabetes, hypothyroidism, and anemia, which can also cause chronic fatigue. A mental health professional can help determine if mental health problems (such as major depression, anxiety) are not the cause of your fatigue. There are other conditions with similar symptoms (e.g., Mononucleosis, Lyme disease, Lupus, Multiple sclerosis, Fibromyalgia). Recent variants of the coronavirus also show similar symptoms with CFS.
As mentioned before, unfortunately there is no cure for this condition. However, there is treatment that aims to relieve symptoms. CFS can trigger depression or maybe a part of depression, that is why antidepressants may be used in treatment. Some doctors recommend changing your diet, acupuncture, or doing yoga to help resolve pain associated with CFS. On the other hand, some doctors prefer cognitive training and exercises. Support from family and friends is an important factor of the management of chronic fatigue syndrome.
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Ela Jean Demir holds a Bachelor degree in Psychology from the Izmir University of Economics in Turkey. She is currently doing her internship at Willingness.
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Nater, U. M., Maloney, E., Lin, J. M., Heim, C., & Reeves, W. C. (2012). Coping styles in chronic fatigue syndrome: findings from a population-based study. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 81(2), 127–129. https://doi.org/10.1159/000329996