Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Do You Have CFS?
If you suffer from exhaustion that lacks any discernible medical cause, your search for answers may be at an end. There’s a good chance you are one of the millions of people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of those ailments that defy an easy description or diagnosis. It shares many of the same symptoms found in different diseases, medical conditions, and psychological disorders, and is thus difficult to distinguish from many other causes of fatigue. For exhausted individuals, that similarity to other conditions can pose a problem, since many patients seek treatment for other conditions without realizing they suffer from CFS.
What Is CFS?
To complicate things even more, doctors have a difficult time diagnosing the condition due to the unknown nature of what causes it and its symptomatic similarity to other fatigue-oriented ailments. In fact, the actual definition of this disorder is based upon it being a state of extreme exhaustion for which no other medical cause can be identified. No wonder it is so hard to diagnose; before it can be properly identified, you first have to exclude everything else that might be causing your fatigue and other symptoms.
Eight Additional Symptoms of CFS:
In addition to fatigue, the other symptoms of CFS are:
- Otherwise unexplained sore throat
- Muscle pain that has no other explanation
- Frequent headaches that are dissimilar to those experienced by the patient previously
- Joint pain that is not accompanied by swelling or other outward signs
- Lymph node swelling
- Memory and concentration issues
- An inability to obtain rest, with tiredness persisting even after a full night’s sleep
- Extreme exhaustion after any mental or physical exertion
That is, of course, the most difficult part of this condition. Obviously, there are many different reasons why any of those symptoms might manifest themselves in the patient’s body. Anemia, thyroid difficulties, and even depressions often present the same types of symptoms to one degree or another. This has led to some common diagnosis rules for physicians who are dealing with this disorder.
- A diagnosis can only be made if the present state of exhaustion has an obvious and identifiable beginning. Patients who have suffered these effects throughout their lives obviously have some other condition that needs to be addressed
- The condition must be recurring in nature, and limit the patient’s ability to engage in normal activities
- It should be worse after any type of exertion
- It cannot have any other explanation
How Do You Get CFS?
As noted earlier, researchers do not really understand exactly how this disorder occurs. There are clear cases in which the syndrome begins in the aftermath of some sort of viral infection – but not all patients have suffered such infections prior to the onset of the disorder. There are also many instances where there were problem with the immune system or hormonal imbalances before patients became fatigued – but not in all cases.
Some cases have been traced back to specific stressors – traumatic or otherwise eventful trigger points at which patient health suddenly deteriorated. But again, this is not present in all cases. Finally, heredity may have some part in the onset of this syndrome as well, but there is no clear evidence to that effect either. However, like many other medical conditions, it could be that the role of genetics is limited to making certain people more predisposed to suffering from this syndrome.
There are certain risk factors that can make one more susceptible to the CFS, however. Age is one critical factor, since most of the people who seem most prone to this syndrome are between the ages of forty and sixty – during that period in which most people experience their highest earning potential Most of these patients do demonstrate problems managing stress, so the inability to handle normal stress is clearly a risk factor. Gender appears to be important too, since far more women than men are diagnosed with this syndrome.
Can CFS Be Managed?
CFS has no cure. It can, however, be managed if your physician is able to obtain a proper diagnosis. The tests for this syndrome are never conclusive in any sort of direct way, but simply eliminate other options. In other words, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome typically comes by way of process of elimination rather than one single test that confirms its presence. Once diagnosed, various medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes can help patients better manage their exhaustion.
Diagnosing the Disorder
Because this kind of fatigue is common in so many other ailments, doctors test for a host of other conditions before settling on CFS. That means that they’ll run blood tests to rule out anemia, thyroid issues, diabetes, and other common afflictions. Sleep studies are often conducted to eliminate things like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Even mental health issues like depression and anxiety need to be removed from consideration as a potential cause of your fatigue.
The use of medications to treat symptoms has to be specifically designed with each patient’s unique needs in mind. That’s why some patients will be treated with antidepressants to help relieve mild pain and improve sleep, while others are prescribed low-level pain pills and even sleeping pills.
Therapies are targeted toward both the mind and body. Psychological counseling can help patients with depression and learning how to feel as though they are more in control of their own lives. Physical exercise can help to improve endurance and strength, while also maintaining the overall level of patient fitness.
Where lifestyle is concerned, patients need to focus on healthy changes that can reduce stressors. That includes limiting activities that might overtax the body or mind, developing better and more consistent sleep habits, and learning to not overdo things on days when you feel a little better. Nowhere is the old saying “in all things, moderation” more appropriate than in the management of this exhausting syndrome.
And don’t forget the healing power that outside support can bring. Often times, chronic fatigue syndrome can lead patients to withdraw from social interaction. That can lead to increased depression, which can in turn cause even worse manifestations of your symptoms. Live life as fully as you can with other people. Guard your rest and health zealously, and do not be afraid to put yourself first in most things. All of these decisions can help to lower your stress, reduce many fatigue symptoms, and provide you with the support you need to effectively manage your fatigue issues.
You might also be interested in:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20022009
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-topic-overview
- CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). http://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-fatigue-syndrome#Overview1
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/235980-overview
- Beyond Exhaustion: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. http://www.everydayhealth.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-basics.aspx