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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Oluwafemi Michael
Oluwafemi Michael is an online Mental Health Therapist, Advocate for Mental Health Awareness, a programmer, and also a content creator from Edo state, Akoko-Edo LG.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an intricate, long-term illness that affects a wide range of systems in the body. It can be characterized by extreme tiredness or fatigue.

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Chronic fatigue syndrome is referred to as systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Currently, there might be approximately 17 to 24 million people nationwide affected with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

What causes CFS is yet to be fully understood. Some theories include psychological stress, viral infection, or several different factors. It creates a vast array of symptoms that might manifest differently for each person affected by the condition.

To help alleviate symptoms, many people who have chronic fatigue syndrome rely on medical treatments. They may also have to learn a new way to minimize the effect of the condition in their daily living.

There is no simple cure to the condition, and possible treatment is focused on managing the symptoms. What are the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Read on to find out.

Symptoms

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome vary based on the person and how severe the condition is. Chronic fatigue syndrome can affect a wide range of systems and bodily functions.

Potential symptoms of CFS may look similar to most conditions. This might make diagnosing the condition difficult.

To be able to diagnose CFS, an individual must experience at least six months of reduced daily activity with fatigue. It should also happen that the individual won’t get better with bed rest.

Chronic fatigue syndrome can also cause sleep complications, such as:

  • Chronic insomnia
  • Feeling of tiredness after a good night’s sleep
  • Other sleep disorders

Also, an individual may also experience:

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Physical symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome may include;

  • Constant headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Multi-joint pain, excluding the swelling and redness
  • Tender and inflamed lymph nodes in the armpits and neck

Many people with CFS are affected during their monthly cycles, with their periods making them feel worse and then better.

Symptoms of CFS can sometimes disappear completely (remission), but it is still very possible for a relapse to happen. This happens when symptoms return.

The cycle of relapse and remission can be frustrating, making it difficult for symptoms to be managed, but it isn’t impossible.

Other possible symptoms of CFS

There are several possible symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, ranging in severity. These symptoms may differ from person to person.

Potential symptoms may include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Sore throat
  • Rashes
  • Twitching muscles
  • Canker sores
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Increased level of stress
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Tinnitus
  • High or low body temperature
  • Paralysis
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Hair loss
  • Impotence
  • Disinterest in sex
  • Weight change
  • Increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
  • Visual complications

Causes of Chronic fatigue syndrome

It is still unclear what causes CFS. According to experts, the contributing factors may include the following;

It is also likely that some individuals are genetically predisposed to having CFS. Although chronic fatigue syndrome can sometimes manifest after a viral infection, no particular infection has been directly linked to causing chronic fatigue syndrome.

Viral infections that have been studied in connection to CFS include:

  • Ross River Virus (RRV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Rubella

Bacteria-causing infections, including mycoplasma, pneumonia and Coxiella burnetii, have also been linked with CFS.

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic fatigue syndrome may be the late stages of multiple conditions, instead of one specific condition.

About 1 in every ten people with RRV, Epstein-Barr virus, or Coxiella burnetii infection will display a condition that can be diagnosed as CFS.

Also, people who have experienced severe symptoms linked with any of these three health complications are at a higher risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome.

CFS can sometimes cause weakened immune systems, and doctors aren’t sure if this is enough to cause the disorder. Individuals with CFS can also experience unusual hormone levels.

Risk factors for chronic fatigue syndrome

CFS is commonly seen among people between the ages of 40 to 50.

Sex is also a significant factor when it comes to chronic fatigue syndrome, especially since women, compared to men, are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome compared to men.

Other factors that can maximize risk for CFS can include:

  • Stress
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Allergies
  • Environmental factors

Diagnosing CFS

Doctors find it very challenging to diagnose the condition. As of 2015, as reported by the Institute of Medicine, CFS occurs in about 836, 000 – 2.5 million Americans. It is also estimated that about 84-91 percent is yet to be correctly diagnosed.

There are presently no medical tests to screen for the condition. Chronic fatigue syndrome displays many symptoms similar to several other conditions. Many individuals with CFS don’t appear sick, so it might be difficult or doctors to recognize the presence of CFS.

In order to get a diagnosis for chronic fatigue syndrome, your doctor may try to rule out other potential causes and re-evaluate your medical history.

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They would ask how long you have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above (if any) and request that you explain the severity of the fatigue you’re experiencing.

Other conditions that manifest symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome may include the following:

The side effects of some drugs like antihistamines and alcohol can display symptoms similar to CFS.

Due to the similarities between symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and other health complications, you mustn’t self-diagnose. Consult with your doctor immediately if you have some concerns about how you feel.

Treating CFS

There is presently no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. Every individual has different symptoms and may need a different mode of treatment to control and manage the disorder.

It might be best to meet with your doctor to better determine the best treatment plan for you. Your doctor and their team can help go over the benefits and side effects of treatment for you.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

It might help to minimize your symptoms if you work on some lifestyle changes. It can help you sleep better if you limit or eliminate the intake of caffeinated drinks. Alcohol and nicotine should also be avoided if the goal is to get proper sleep.

You may also want to avoid napping during the day, especially if you notice you don’t sleep well at night. You could download some sleep apps on your phone, work on your sleep environment, and keep a log of what time you go to bed.

You could also make it a routine to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time also.

Medications

Generally, there isn’t any specific medication that can treat all symptoms of CFS. Also, symptoms may change over time, meaning your medications may have to be changed as well.

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In most cases, chronic fatigue syndrome can trigger or can be a symptom of depression. You may be required to take a low-dose if antidepressant, but you may have to see your mental health provider to discuss this.

You may discuss other sleep options with your doctor if lifestyle changes does not yield the desired result for good night sleep. Pain-relieving meds can also help people with CFS cope with aches and joint discomfort caused by CFS.

It may help if you work closely with your healthcare provider. This would help them get the best treatment for you.

Other medicine

Massage, tai chi, acupuncture, and yoga may help with relieving pain associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. It is imperative to relay all complaints to your medical doctor before self-medicating or beginning any unorthodox treatment.

What’s your take on Chronic fatigue syndrome? Ever experienced anything similar to this condition? What treatment methods did you use to get better? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

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