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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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When a person experiences extreme tiredness that isn’t alleviated by rest or sleep, that person may very well have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS. This type of illness makes sufferers feel constantly fatigued on a day-to-day basis, despite periods of rest or sleep. In fact, the syndrome impedes the way a person is able to cope with daily activities.

In the United States, approximately 4 million people suffer from CFS each year. Due to this ailment, most of the sufferers are frequently unemployed or are living on disability because of the symptoms they feel. Nearly 40% of those who have been diagnosed with CFS also suffer from other medical or psychological conditions like diabetes, substance abuse or thyroid disease.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

CFS is considered a grave ailment, not only because of the symptoms it carries, but also because it affects patients’ families, friends, and health care providers.

What distinguishes CFS from other disorders is that fatigue is present for a period of 6 months or longer, and the patient will report other symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain, memory problems and decreased mental concentration, multiple joint pain, inability to sleep well, a sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

Any mode of activity, whether physical or mental, that a patient undertakes is also known to prolong the incidence of fatigue for more than 24 hours at a time. CFS is severe and incapacitating, and sufferers will notice a dramatic decline in their stamina and the level of activity, whether personal, educational or social, that they were capable of doing before their illness. The nature of these various symptoms have often stymied doctors from distinguishing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome compared to a host of other ailments with similar symptoms.

CFS can often last for years. Both debilitating and complex, no amount of bed rest will improve the fatigue experienced by patients who have CFS. People who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are most often listless, unable to function properly, and perform everyday activities at a very low-key level compared to what they were able to accomplish before their illness.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME CAUSES

Despite CFS research that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years, there is yet no evidence found of the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Medical researchers have looked into the role of various infectious agents, as well as physiological and psychological factors that may play a role in the onset of CFS. At present, the relation of a person’s immune, endocrine and nervous systems are being studied, including any genetic and environmental aspects that may be related to the disorder.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Image: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Depression has already been ruled out as being responsible for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, despite the fact that both illnesses have often been seen to coexist. However, a good percentage of patients diagnosed with CFS have been found to have no traces of psychiatric disorder whatsoever.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome usually affects four times more women than men, generally between the ages of 40 and 50, although it may also afflict individuals of all ages, genders, ethnicities, or socioeconomic groups. CFS is less common in children, although there have been cases of the syndrome reported in teenagers.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has proved to be a very challenging dilemma for the medical community. People who have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will notice that the symptoms they experience are rather similar to that of various other disorders. The symptom of unyielding fatigue is non-specific and often similar to hundreds of other ailments, making CFS a difficult disorder to diagnose.

In addition, there is no known diagnostic biomarker or laboratory test that can pinpoint the presence of CFS. Many consider it an “invisible” illness, as a majority of patients exhibit no visible signs of illness on their person. Further, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a type of disorder that occurs intermittently, with patients frequently relapsing in no predictable manner. The symptoms of CFS may also vary in frequency and severity depending on each person. This means that no two patients have the exact same symptoms or pattern of symptom occurrence.

There has been a huge amount of debate surrounding the issue of how to properly diagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In 1994, an international panel of experts specializing in CFS convened to discuss the proper method of coming up with the criteria defining this disorder to enable clinicians to better diagnose patients based on their symptoms.

Doctors who undertake to diagnose the presence of CFS will need to ascertain that for six months of more, the patient has been experiencing cognitive dysfunction that includes a marked lack of concentration as well as an impaired memory. The patient will also be complaining of rapid exhaustion and extreme body malaise following any number of activities that include physical or mental exercise. This fatigue usually lasts up to 24 hours or more following these activities.

The doctor will have to determine if the patient suffers from chronic insomnia, or barring that, constant non-restful sleep. Other symptoms that point toward a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will usually include persistent muscle pain, multiple joint pain with the absence of redness or swelling, tender lymph nodes, a sore throat, and headaches that vary in length and severity.

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME TREATMENT

There is no definite cure or therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the best that the medical community can offer is to treat the various symptoms of this disorder, such as the all-encompassing fatigue and sleep problems, to enable patients to lead normal lives.

Patients who suffer from CFS will need to accommodate certain lifestyle changes, as well as adopt a regimen of dietary restrictions, reducing the amount of stress they are exposed to, preventing themselves from any form of overexertion, be it mental or physical, and gentle stretching exercises in addition to various medications geared at treating the various physiological manifestations of the disorder.

The sooner Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances are of recovery. Patients whose symptoms are determined and treated within two years are likely to improve faster. Despite the difficulty in diagnosing CFS, early intervention has been considered favorable for patients, as the longer the illness has been allowed to continue before diagnosis, the more complicated it will be to treat.
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