May 12th is observed as World Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day with the aim to raise awareness about this condition.
Do you feel tired even after resting the entire day? Feel low on energy from morning to night without any known cause?
Slept peacefully the whole night but still feel exhausted?
Experience heaviness of head, frequent headaches and mood swings along with fatigue?
If yes, then you could be suffering from what is known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Long-standing fatigue or chronic fatigue in India is majorly ignored and often misdiagnosed. Long-term fatigue can be normal and may occur because you are overworked or not getting enough rest. Chronic fatigue is not equal to chronic fatigue syndrome. Here we shed some light on this condition and ways to overcome the symptoms associated with it.
What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex disorder characterized by excessive tiredness or fatigue all the time. This condition does not improve with rest and remains unexplained by any underlying medical condition. Chronic fatigue syndrome can also be called systemic exertion intolerance disease” and myalgic encephalomyelitis.
What triggers chronic fatigue syndrome?
The exact cause of this condition is not yet clear. However, it has been seen to get triggered by various factors such as viral infections, stress, weak immune system or sometimes due to the combination of these factors. It gets difficult to diagnose the condition because of the imitating symptoms of other illnesses and unclear cause of the disease.
What are the symptoms of CFS?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is described mainly as feeling tired all the time or most of the time which does not improve even after rest. This excessive tiredness makes it hard for you to do normal activities as well. Apart from feeling tired, other common symptoms experienced are:
– Difficulty in sleeping or disturbed sleep
– Difficulty in concentrating or thinking clearly
– Generalized muscular pain.
– Heaviness of head and frequent headaches
– Dizziness on standing up
– Irritability or mood swings
– Bowel disturbances
– Numbness or tingling, burning sensation on face, hands and feet
– Joint pains
– Tenderness and swelling around lymph nodes situated in your neck and armpit
– Frequent episodes of sore throat
Is CFS a mental illness?
There is no doubt that most people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome tend to develop depression during the course of the disease. However, there is no research evidence to indicate that it is a neurological disease or is a mental illness. In fact, it is a physical condition that can cause neurological impact (such as depression) in some people.
Can a teenager have chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome can affect people of all ethnicities and ages, but is most common in young adults from 20 to 40 years. However, it is also seen to cause symptoms in childhood, adolescence and in the elderly.
How long does chronic fatigue syndrome last?
To be diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, it is reported that the symptoms such as extreme fatigue must last for at least a period of six months. In most cases, the symptoms may persist for many years. It is also known to cause various degrees of disability in people suffering from the condition. The symptoms tend to be severe in the initial period of two – three years, post which there is an improvement in the level of functioning.
When should I consult a doctor?
If you suddenly feel tired all the time (for a span of at least six months or more) or if extreme fatigue is harming your day-to-day activities, then you should consult a doctor to get yourself examined for the problem.
How do you test for chronic fatigue syndrome?
There is no specific diagnostic test to confirm this condition. A doctor evaluates the symptoms for any other underlying condition and if they find no other cause for the symptoms then they consider it as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Your doctor may order some basic tests such as complete blood count, thyroid profile, liver function test, etc to rule out the prevalence of any other medical condition and for better diagnosis.
What is the best treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome?
There is no specific treatment or cure for chronic fatigue syndrome and it progresses differently for different people. So, the suitable approach is to address the symptoms and treat them. But basically, the treatment of CFS involves lifestyle changes, exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy in addition to medications.
Can CFS be prevented?
As the cause of CFS is not known, it is difficult to prevent CFS. However, there are few simple tips that can help you to manage your symptoms. These include:
1. Limit your addiction: Limit your intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol and eat healthy food. This would help you to sleep better and cope up with insomnia.
2. Say no to stress: Avoid any kind of physical and emotional stress. Keep yourself occupied by joining some hobby classes or laughter groups.
3. Regular follow-up: Getting some help with a psychologist or a counselor on a regular basis can definitely help you see things from a different perspective to the situation. This will enable you to react sensibly and cope up with your condition.
4. Exercise regularly: It’s true that any physical exertion does worsen the condition but if you do graded exercise it would actually help improve your symptoms. Gradually increasing the amount and intensity of exercises including yoga and medication can help to get some respite.
What medications can help for chronic fatigue?
Generally, there isn’t a specific medicine that can help manage all your symptoms. Your doctor will treat you as per your symptoms. Sometimes, painkillers may help you deal with joint and muscle pains. Remember, managing chronic fatigue syndrome can be quite challenging but lifestyle changes and medical care can help you stay active and adapt to your chronic fatigue.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)