Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities. The fatigue is not due to exertion, not significantly relieved by rest, and is not caused by other medical conditions.
Why It Occurs
CFS may also be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), or by several other terms. Biological, genetic, infectious and psychological mechanisms have been proposed, but the etiology of CFS is not understood and it may have multiple causes.
Symptoms of CFS include malaise after exertion; unrefreshing sleep, widespread muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headaches of a type not previously experienced, cognitive difficulties, chronic and severe mental and physical exhaustion, and other characteristic symptoms in a previously healthy and active person. Additional symptoms may be reported, including muscle weakness, increased sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, orthostatic intolerance, digestive disturbances, depression, painful and often slightly swollen lymph nodes, cardiac and respiratory problems. It is unclear if these symptoms represent co-morbid conditions or if they are produced by an underlying etiology of CFS. CFS symptoms vary in number, type, and severity from person to person. Quality of life of persons with CFS can be extremely compromised. CFS can begin gradually, usually following a period of severe physical or emotional stress.
Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on symptom relief. Medications used to treat chronic fatigue include:
Antidepressants. Many people who have chronic fatigue syndrome are also depressed. Treating your depression can make it easier for you to cope with the problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. And low doses of some antidepressants also can help improve sleep and relieve pain.
Sleeping pills. If home measures, such as avoiding caffeine, don’t help you get better rest at night, your doctor might suggest trying prescription sleep aids.
Therapy used to treat chronic fatigue include: The most effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome appears to be a two-pronged approach that combines psychological counseling with a gentle exercise program.
Graded exercise. A physical therapist can help determine what types of exercise are best for you. Inactive people often begin with range-of-motion and stretching exercises for just a few minutes a day. If you’re exhausted the next day, you’re doing too much. Your strength and endurance will improve as you gradually increase the intensity of your exercise over time.
Psychological counseling. Talking with a counselor can help you figure out options to work around some of the limitations that chronic fatigue syndrome imposes on you. Feeling more in control of your life can improve your outlook dramatically