Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a neurological illness that can occur at any age. It manifests through extreme fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, exercise intolerance, and “brain fog.” As with most illnesses, CFS is unique to each patient and causes everyone to experience different symptoms at various intensities.
A clear cause of CFS has yet to be determined. However, it is thought to be brought about by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. CFS is diagnosed by looking at a patient’s symptoms and eliminating all other potential causes.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms
To be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, a patient must have these three “core” symptoms:
- A lowered ability to execute activities. This decrease in activity level is usually accompanied by long-term fatigue experienced for at least six months. While fatigue is common for most people, CFS fatigue is:
- Not a result of difficult activity
- Not relieved by sleeping
- Was not a life-long problem before the illness
- Tiredness intensifies after normal activities. For example, a small grocery trip would cause exhaustion so severe that the individual would need to take a nap before heading home.
- Sleep problems. A full night’s sleep provides little to no relief from fatigue. Also, falling asleep and staying asleep is a struggle.
Treatment for CFS focuses on lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. Because mental health issues and other chronic illnesses can coexist with extreme fatigue, counseling is strongly recommended. To aid sleep, reducing caffeine and experimenting with bedtime routines are beneficial. There are over-the-counter and prescription medicines that can help in certain cases, but as always, it’s safest to discuss medication with a doctor before taking anything.
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