What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome or simply CFS is a very complex disorder. It’s a medical condition that is characterized of extreme fatigue, which may last for more than 6 months. This fatigue may worsen with mental or physical activity, but doesn’t improve with rest. The fatigue is accompanied by cognitive problems such as those with short-term memory and concentration.
Up to date, there is no specific reason that has been identified to cause chronic fatigue syndrome. However, this condition has been associated with infections that mostly affect the immunity system. A lot of research has been done on the possible causes of this condition, but nothing definite has been proven. Some researchers have said that CFS could be related to the bacterium Chlamydia pneumonia while others say it’s associated to Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis. Bronchitis, diarrhea and candidiasis have also been linked with CFS.
Research has also proven that genetic and environmental factors play an important role in the occurrence of this disease. Basically, CFS may be due to one or more of the causes mentioned above.
This health condition can affect people from all ages. However, it is most common in the age group 40 to 50 years, especially among women.
A person suffering from CFS may experience one or more of the following symptoms for 6 months or more.
- Fatigue is the main symptom of this syndrome. The chronic fatigue is unexplainable and can last between 6 months and 3 years. In most cases, this fatigue starts in the middle of some infection and goes on even after the infection or the illness has been cured.
- Cognitive problems. In the case of CFS, the short term memory gets affected while the long term memory is not affected. Most people complain not being able to remember some word in normal speech. This is a form of verbal dyslexia known as dysnomia.
- Depression. A person suffering from CFS will start getting depressed. He or she will start experiencing problems performing most of the basic tasks at home and work.
- Postexertional fatigue. This can be explained as a fatigue that sets on when CFS starts. In this case, a person gets excessively exhausted after doing most basic activities that he/she was perfectly capable of doing before.
- Apart from the aforementioned symptoms, other symptoms of CFS include: unrefreshing sleep, muscle pain, pain in joints, headaches of greater severity, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, allergies, chills and night sweats, visual disturbances, difficulty in maintain an upright position and irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms.
Medications and treatment for CFS
Treatment for CFS focuses on symptom relief. For example, medications can be prescribed in cases where the muscle and joint pains are intense. Coping with chronic fatigue syndrome may include frequent exercise, healthy eating and living.
Graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behavioural therapy have shown moderate effectiveness. Pacing has also proven to work while medications such as antidepressant and immunomodulatory agents can help in alleviating the symptoms.