What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

How Does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Differ From Regular Fatigue?

If you are overworked, missing out on normal amounts of sleep, and feel more tired than usual, you could simply be fatigued. But what if you have additional symptoms, seemingly unrelated to being tired?

Or what if you do manage to sleep more, and the fatigue persists?

You may wonder if you have CFS instead.

CFS is much more than being overly tired. In fact, there is a recommendation from a federal advisory committee to expand the name to include “myalgic encephalopathy” because the symptoms go much further than the name suggested.

While some of these symptoms seem obvious, you might be surprised by others. Here are nine to look for:

  1. Debilitating exhaustion for at least six months that is not improved by rest.
  2. Mental confusion, including short-term memory loss and becoming easily distracted .
  3. A sore throat.
  4. A fever.
  5. Tender lymph nodes.
  6. Muscle pain.
  7. Joint pain, unaccompanied by redness or swelling.
  8. Headaches that don’t fit your normal pattern.
  9. Unexpected tiredness after exercise or other activities.

Diagnosing CFS

To be diagnosed, you must have at least four of the above symptoms, starting at the same time or after the fatigue started, and lasting for at least six months. Since CFS is not an easy condition to diagnose, and could be accompanied by other complications such as depression, see a doctor if you suspect you suffer from it.

People of any age, race, or gender can get it; however, there are certain people who are more likely to develop it than others. Along with your symptoms, your doctor will check to see if you fit any of the following risk factors or share other conditions that are commonly experienced with CFS:

  • You are an adult between the ages of 40 and 50.
  • Your are female.
  • You are depressed.
  • You have been under a lot of stress.
  • You have fibromyalgia.
  • You have trouble sleeping.

There are no blood tests or scans that conclusively diagnose this condition, so your symptoms and risk factors and a detailed medical history will aid your doctor. Mainly, however, it will be a process of elimination to make sure you don’t have something else.

Can it be Treated?

Since the symptoms can be linked to so many other conditions and disorders, you may be prescribed an antidepressant (for depression), a sleeping pill (to aid your sleep), or be given a more natural CFS treatment option. Exercise is recommended, although the intensity and type will be tailored to your particular situation by your doctor. Along with this, your diet may undergo a change, adding your intake of fruits and vegetables and cutting out fattier foods.

Lastly, you may be encouraged to stimulate your intellect, such as through cognitive-behavioral therapy.

While there is currently no definite cure for CFS, following a treatment regimen designed by your doctor could greatly reduce your symptoms, send you into a period of remission, and even allow you to return to work or some of your former activities.