What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition of persistent fatigue over a period of 6 months or longer that is not triggered by any sort of exertion and does not get cured with rest. The condition cannot be linked to a specific cause and limits a person’s physical and mental abilities to carry out day-to-day tasks. The condition is known to affect middle-aged women more than men, though people of any age group can be susceptible.
What is the Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Efforts have been unsuccessful in pinpointing the cause of this condition though it is suspected that the condition may be caused in more than one way including:
- Viral and bacterial infections
- A deficient immune system
- Nutritional imbalance
- Abnormalities in the nervous system
- Psychological stress
- Hormonal fluctuations and imbalances
- Having a family history of CFS
Since the causes of the illness cannot be determined, a diagnosis of CFS is difficult because some of the symptoms can be caused by other diseases. Upon diagnosing the condition to be CFS, treatment is provided to relieve the symptoms due to the absence of precise knowledge of the cause.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Men and Women?
If intense fatigue is present for more than 6 months and the fatigue does not lessen with rest, then the condition is diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. The condition is reported by many individuals to start suddenly or after a period of viral illness or stress.
Apart from immense fatigue, CFS is commonly characterized by:
- Disturbed sleep
- Trouble with short-term memory and concentration
- Certain cognitive abilities
- Exhaustion for more than 24 hours after physical exertion
- Muscle pain
- Multiple joint pain without inflammation
- Headaches in differing patterns
- Lymph nodes that are tender
- Sore throat
Further, the patient may experience blurred vision, inability to maintain an upright posture, exhaustion from work, dizziness, and depression.
Many people suffering from CFS are likely to experience alternating periods of wellness and debilitating fatigue.
To diagnose CFS, the symptoms must be examined to rule out any other causative diseases or adverse lifestyle. The condition is considered as CFS when at least four of the aforementioned primary symptoms are experienced along with long-term fatigue.
What are the Risk Factors Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The illness is statistically seen to largely affect women aged between 40 and 60 years. It could also be due to under-reporting of the illness among men and women of other age groups. So, it does not rule out the possibility of the illness equally affecting men and women of all ages and races.
Studies show people associated with varied medical, environmental, social, physical, and psychological factors before being affected by CFS. This inconsistency implies it is not possible to accurately determine the risk factors associated with the illness.
Though as a general extrapolation of the suspected causes, people who lead a sedentary lifestyle or are overweight may carry an increased risk of developing the illness. People under psychological stress such as work pressures or family troubles may also be prone develop to the condition.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is not considered contagious, although a person with a blood relative suffering from CFS is more likely to be susceptible to it.
The Centers for Disease Control in the United States of America report that CFS affects more than one million people in the US. Some studies on CFS have yielded an inverse relation between exercise levels as children and adults have chances of developing CFS.
How Can CFS Be Treated?
Treatment for the disease is currently based on alleviating the symptoms. Some steps for treatment include:
- Having a balanced diet
- Medication for body pain
- Medication for sleep disorder
- Medication for depression
- Graded physical exercise
- Counseling to deal with the physical and mental debilitation due to the condition
- Regulating sleep and activity
- Limiting physical and mental stress
Can CFS Be Prevented?
Studies on the causes and risk factors of CFS have yielded inconsistent results. It is not possible at present to precisely identify how the disease can be prevented or who may be at risk. As with all diseases, early detection provides better and faster chances of recovery. Since symptoms of the disease resemble symptoms of other diseases also, a self diagnosis may lead to further complications in case the patient is suffering from another disease. Consult your physician if you think you might have CFS.
Is There Any Cure* For CFS?
There is currently no cure* for the ailment. The number of people who have been fully cured of the illness is not known, but people have been known to make full and intermittent recoveries. It is important to avoid overexerting oneself when one is feeling better as it may lead to a relapse. Many people report experiencing long periods of “normalcy” by regulating activity, exercise, and diet. Avoidance of the triggers that worsen the symptoms is also important to cure* CFS.