Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a very complicated disorder that can affect as many as 4 million people today according to the Center for Disease Control. Out of that number only 50% will have sought out professional medical advice and treatment for this disorder. This can be a very serious and disabling disorder. The CDC estimates of those affected by chronic fatigue syndrome, that up to 25% will be so debilitated that they will be unable to work due to their illness. Another interesting statistic from the CDC is that approximately half of the people presenting for diagnosis and treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome will have another underlying disease or mental illness that has not been diagnosed or treated previously.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is diagnosed in light of the following symptoms. A person who has had severe debilitating fatigue that is not improved by resting or sleep and has lasted for weeks and months on end. The fatigue will be made worse by physical activity. According to the CDC, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome should be made when fatigue has been experienced with little or no improvement for six months. In addition to the fatigue it should be accompanied by one or more of these symptoms:

  • headaches, joint pain and muscle pain that are not relieved by rest and sleep
  • problems with memory and concentration, decline in cognitive function
  • sore throat and swollen lymph glands in the neck and groin
  • sleep that does not rejuvenate or refresh the body

There are some other symptoms that are associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. These are not as common but need to be addressed here as well. These symptoms are:

  • chills, chronic, persistent cough, night sweats, shortness of breath
  • decline in mental function, mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety
  • irritability, depression, visual disturbances
  • abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel symptoms
  • sensitivity to different substances including odors, chemicals, medications, etc.
  • allergies to certain foods and drink
  • sudden weight gain or loss

So who is at risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome? Research shows us that children are not likely to develop this disorder. Chronic fatigue syndrome starts to show up in adolescence. However the most common age range to develop this disorder is people in their 40’s and 50’s. Women are three times as likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome as men are. Chronic fatigue syndrome affects all ethnicities and income brackets. It has been suggested that there are familial tendencies toward this disorder. Researchers feel that this is due to genetic predisposition.

So what causes chronic fatigue syndrome? The exact cause of this disorder is unknown. Researchers are still looking for this. It was felt in the past that some viral illnesses may have been the cause of this disorder however there is much that is not known to this day. Experts do feel that there still may be some viruses that can contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. Ongoing research will hopefully give us more answers in the near future.

Other causes may include the immune system being compromised. Researchers have found antibodies in CFS patients that are also found in people with autoimmune disorders. Another cause may be due to the bodies ability to produce cortisol when it is introduced to stress and strain. Scientists have found that people who have chronic fatigue syndrome frequently produce less cortisol than their healthy counterparts. The lower amount of steroids produced by the body renders the body unable to reduce inflammation naturally. They feel that this may be a valid link to what sets off this syndrome. Further research is needed however to give a final recommendation in this matter.

Chronic fatigue syndrome happens in episodes that constitute a flare up and then there is a period of remission. The cycle then repeats itself after a period of time. Treatment for this disorder can be very difficult to obtain as there is no cure for this disorder and there are no medications that are manufactured to treat this disorder either. Treatment consists of medication and cognitive therapy to treat specific symptoms of this disorder. There can be professional counseling offered to help the person learn to live with this disorder. Medications may be given to help alleviate the depression and the inability to sleep if necessary. People with CFS are encouraged to join a support group to talk to others who have the same condition for support. Other treatment that may be recommended is changes in the diet and an exercise regimen. Aquatic therapy works very well with chronic fatigue syndrome as there is little resistance in the water. This alleviates a lot of the strain that CFS patients feel when trying to exercise normally.


Last updated on Sep 25th, 2009 and filed under Immune System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses for “Chronic fatigue syndrome”

  1. Not all cases of CFS occur in “episodes” like you’ve described. Quite a lot of sufferers never experience remissions of any sort. However, the day to day fluctuations of the disease occur in most mild to moderate cases – one can feel a bit better and then crash the next hour. In severe cases, people are bedbound and their condition never improves. Some of them can not even eat or speak, let alone move their limbs.

    Exercise therapy is a dangerous treatment for CFS. It can make people worse, sometimes for good. It also doesn’t make sense to say there is little resistance in aquatic exercise. It is much easier to move through air than water, although the effects of gravity are lessened by the buoyancy of the water. Aquatic exercise is effective in general because of the resistance of the water. However, it can be gentle enough for someone with CFS if they are already in good shape and their case is mild. For the rest of us, light yoga and tai chi are much more beneficial and less likely to cause post-exertional malaise. But someone with CFS should never push themselves to exercise when their body needs to rest.

  2. CFS/ME is actually quite common in children. A British study found it the most common reason for long-term absences in school children. The youngest known CFS/ME patient has been a six-month old baby!

    Cognitive therapy is not a proper treatment for CFS/ME, but there are hundreds of different medications that can help – and not just symptom-based ones, but ones that can alleviate the actual disease progress.

    Exercise is extremely dangerous to people with CFS/ME and can lead to permanent relapses, even death. Recommending that people with CFS/ME exercise could thus amount to manslaughter.

  3. Smilinggreenmom says:

    My sister in law has dealt with her CFS and fibromyalgia for so long now and it has been hard for her and everyone around her to see her always feeling so bad. I have to say though, that our family has been using the Topricin natural pain cream and it is so great that I just recently shared some with her. I am thrilled to hear that she likes it too…and just hoping that she can start to feel better!

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