Chronic fatigue syndrome also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis is a disease characterized by neurological symptoms, muscle pain with intense physical and mental exhaustion, relapses, and specific cognitive dysfunction.
Symptoms may include profound fatigue, severe headaches, mood swings, loss of memory or concentration, brain fog, sleeping problems, muscle and joint pain, sore throat. It may be triggered by genetic mutations and certain viruses or toxins.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a very real and debilitating condition that impacts 17 million people worldwide. Years and years of stigma means that getting a diagnosis and then treatment is almost always an uphill battle. We all should raise awareness and remove the stigma.
Could You Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex illness and symptoms may seem similar to many other illnesses. CFS requires three common symptoms:
Not being able to participate in routine activities that were possible before becoming ill, such as work, school, social life, that lasts more than 6 months. Fatigue is not a result of ongoing activities, not from more than usual effort, and not made better by rest.
Post-exertional malaise – worsening of symptoms after a physical, mental, or emotional effort that would not have caused a problem before the illness. This is sometimes referred to as “crashing” by people.
Unrefreshing sleep. People with chronic fatigue syndrome may not feel better even after a full night of sleep (feeling just as tired upon waking up as before going to bed)
Besides, at least one of the following symptoms is also required:
Impaired memory or ability to concentrate. People with chronic fatigue syndrome may have trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions
Orthostatic intolerance (symptoms that occur when standing upright). People with chronic fatigue syndrome may feel lightheaded or dizzy when standing upright and may even faint.
Only the doctor can diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. He will ask about how often your symptoms occur and how much they affect you. Sometimes you may need to make more than one visit before being diagnosed. There are also many underlying causes of chronic fatigue syndrome such as autoimmune diseases, brain chemistry imbalances, sleeping disorders, toxic mold exposure, latent bacterial, parasitic, or viral infections.
Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Try over-the-counter therapies like sleep aids and pain relievers (acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen)
If it does not help, a doctor may prescribe medications such as antidepressants or antibiotics
Lifestyle changes are important - like eating healthier, improved sleeping habits, or switching jobs
Some people have reported success with alternative medicine
Therapy and counseling can address the psychological effects of chronic fatigue syndrome