Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a problematic health disorder categorized by intense fatigue. Generally, fatigue gets aggravated by physical or mental activity, however, in CFS the body does not feel better even with rest. It is also known as systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not clear, but viral infections, physiological stress or a combination of all of these factors may trigger CFS. Individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome are hypersensitive even to routine physical activity and exercise. Some of the potential triggers include:
It is believed that people develop chronic fatigue syndrome after a viral attack. The viruses which may trigger the condition include Epstein-Barr virus, human herpesvirus 6, and mouse leukemia. Also Read: Leukemia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Immune System Issues
People with chronic fatigue syndrome generally tend to have an impaired immune function. However, it is not very evident that if immune system impairment would be actually triggering the disorder.
Abnormal levels of hormones are produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Certain factors may increase the risk of chronic fatigue syndrome which include:
It most commonly affects people in the age group of 40 to 50 years.
The risk is more prone to women than men.
Individuals who find it hard to manage stress are at increased risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Extreme tiredness
- Poor memory
- Lack of concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes especially in neck or armpits
- Severe muscle or joint pain
- Disturbed sleep pattern
- Acute fatigue persisting for more than 24 hours, immediately after any physical or mental exertion.
Core Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The main symptoms of CFS usually vary from person to person, but there are 3 core signs and symptoms:
Decreased Potential To Do Normal Activities That Were Possible Earlier:
A person with CFS will have fatigue that hinders their ability to perform daily tasks and the fatigue is:
- Very severe
- Does not ease with rest
- Not caused due to any activity
- Not observed previously
To confirm the diagnosis of CFS, fatigue and a decrease in activity levels must last for more than 6 months or longer.
An individual with post-exertional malaise (PEM) will exhibit a “crash” after a physical or mental effort. During PEM they exhibit new or aggravating symptoms that include:
- Problem thinking
- Poor sleep schedule
- Sore throat
After an event that stimulates PEM, the person may be unable to leave the house, get out of bed, or do regular work for several days or weeks. Generally, the symptoms tend to become worse 12-48 hours post-exertion.
Usually, the triggers will vary from person to person, and for a few people having a shower or going out to the store can set off PEM.
A person may experience a different range of sleep problems. They may feel very sleepy but unable to sleep or not feel active or energetic even after sleeping. They may have:
- Very intense dreaming
- Restless legs
- Night-time muscle spasms
- Sleep apnea
Other Primary Symptoms
One or more of the below symptoms may also be present with the three core symptoms mentioned, these include:
Issues with thinking and memory and the person may find it hard with:
- Proper decision making
- Attention to minute details
- Prompt thinking
- Remembering things
At times people may refer to these symptoms as “brain fog”
Dizziness while standing up, when a person shifts from lying on their back to sitting or standing, they may experience:
- Vision problems like blurred vision or seeing spots
There is no specific test to determine chronic fatigue syndrome because in most situations the symptoms mimic other health conditions. The doctor generally, rules out the possibility of other illness before confirming the diagnosis which includes:
Sleep disorders can cause chronic fatigue, hence a sleep study can help to determine if sleep is being troubled by disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome or insomnia.
Heart And Lung Damages
Any problems with the heart or lungs can make a person feel more tired. An exercise stress test can determine heart and lung function.
Mental Health Issues
Fatigue is a common symptom associated with several mental issues including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. A counsellor may help to identify if a person has any mental issues that are causing fatigue. Also Read: Schizophrenia: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
There is no complete cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, treatment mainly focusses on providing respite from symptoms.
People with mental issues like depression and anxiety are given antidepressants which help to improve sleep and ease the pain. Other medical conditions should be addressed and proper medical care should be given to control diabetes, hypothyroidism and anaemia.
One of the most effective treatment plans for chronic fatigue syndrome is a two-divided strategies that combines cognitive session with a mild exercise program.
A session with a counsellor can help a person to find out ways to manage some of the limitations that chronic fatigue syndrome imposes. Handling these situations and feeling more confident and control of life can enhance the overall outlook greatly.
Physical therapists recommend certain exercises that is best for the patients. People who are totally inactive start with a range of motion and stretching exercises for a few minutes a day and slowly increase the intensity over time which may help to lower hypersensitivity to exercise.
Following certain lifestyle modifications can help people to lessen the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome which include:
- Restrict or totally avoid caffeinated beverages can improve the sleep pattern and ease insomnia.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine.
- Try to avoid sleeping during day time, if it’s hindering the ability to sleep at night
- Develop a proper sleep routine, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every day.