Tuesday, 27 March 2012

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Introduction to CFS (History and Symptoms)

Do you ever feel so tired that you could just fall asleep right where you stand? Had 12 hours sleep last night but still need that 3pm nap just to keep you going until you get home? If that sounds familiar you might be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Once known as 'yuppie flu', CFS is a fairly controversial disease that is under regular debate in the medical community since there are a variety of factors that can present. However, the most common symptom is extreme fatigue that lasts for six months or more. Other symptoms include:
  • Sore muscles - as if you've done a heavy workout
  • Stiffness and swelling of your joints
  • Disturbed sleep - this can include excessive sleeping and insomnia
  • Severe headaches - often including migraines
  • Sore throat and runny nose - flu like symptoms
  • Occasional fever
  • Swollen and tender lymph nodes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog - trouble focusing or forgetting things

So How Does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Appear?

At the moment there is no one particular factor that causes an onset for CFS but the following events will often trigger an episode in patients:
  • Viral infections - including flu
  • Depression and other conditions
  • Stress - such as losing your job or a loved one
  • Genetic factors
  • Hyper-reactive immune system
Unfortunately there has yet to be a blood test, or any other medical test, that can tell us for sure if you have chronic fatigue syndrome but the medical community are making constant steps forwards. A diagnosis is normally carried out over a series of months ruling out any other diseases you may have, taking a detailed medical history and a lot of lab work to rule out any other causes of fatigue such as anemia.

So Will I Ever get Better?

The answer is who knows? Some people recover from the disease in a few months (especially with children, they seem to 'out grow of it'), or it could be with them for the rest of their lives. 

Some people have a mild - moderate condition where they can continue with their work and home life but have to rest up at the weekends or shorten their work hours or recreational time to ensure adequate rest periods.

Others, however, will have moderate - severe symptoms where they may still be able to do most things around the house or they might become completely bed bound where they can no longer work or take care of themselves. These are extreme cases but unfortunately there are people who suffer this badly with the condition whilst trying to conserve as much energy as possible.

Are There Any Treatments?

There are no proven medications available just yet as there is simply not enough data about the disease  or the patients to begin something of that scale. The best way to manage the disease is through lifestyle modifications:
  • A healthy diet
  • Anti-depressant drugs in some cases
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) - you learn where it is necessary to expend energy and how to conserve it
  • Graded exercise - it is very important to remain as active as possible
  • Medication - pain management is the most frequent series of drugs along with sleeping pills
  • Sleep management techniques - getting your bedroom in the right setting and creating a sleeping schedule
I hope I've provided you with enough information to start with. This is a disease that I am currently struggling with, although they believe there is an underlying cause for it. If I've missed anything out or have any questions please leave a comment, thanks.

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