Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition of prolonged and severe tiredness or weariness (fatigue) that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other conditions.

To be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, your tiredness must be severe enough to decrease your ability to participate in ordinary activities by 50%.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) is much more than just being tired a lot. People with ME/CFS are so run down that it interferes with their lives and can make it hard to function at all. Some people with ME/CFS say they have trouble staying on top of their responsibilities at home and on the job, while others are severely disabled and even bedridden. Furthermore, they’re not just dealing with extreme fatigue but with a wide range of other symptoms, including flu-like symptoms and chronic pain.

When referring to chronic fatigue syndrome, patients and patient advocates often prefer to call the condition chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) to convey the complexity of the illness and its profound impact on people’s lives.

For unknown reasons CFS occurs most often in people in their 40s and 50s, more often in women than men, and is less prevalent among children and adolescents.

Employment rates through the past decade vary with over half unable to work and nearly two-thirds limited in their work because of their illness. More than half were on disability benefits or temporary sick leave, and less than a fifth worked full-time.

Literature on ME/CFS (by different names) dates back to the 1700s. Through the centuries, it’s been falsely attributed to various causes and is only now beginning to be better understood by medical science.

What are the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

A symptom is something the patient senses and describes, while a sign is something other people, such as the doctor notice. For example, drowsiness may be a symptom while dilated pupils may be a sign.

Symptoms of CFS are similar to those of most common viral infections (muscle aches, headache, and fatigue). They come on within a few hours or days and last for 6 months or more.

Examples of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms include headaches, tender lymph nodes, sore throat, muscle pain, joint pain, feeling tired, and feeling discomfort after physical exertion. These symptoms either stay with a person or come and go for more than six months. It’s important to note that the signs and symptoms are often similar to those of other health conditions.

What are the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The cause of CFS is unknown. To discover possible triggers, researchers are studying the relationship between stress, the immune system, toxins, the central nervous system, and activation of a latent virus.

Some researchers suspect it may be caused by a virus, such as Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6). However, no specific virus has been identified as the cause.

Studies suggest that CFS may be caused by inflammation along the nervous system, and that this inflammation may be some sort of immune response or process.

Other factors such as age, prior illness, stress, environment, or genetics may also play a role.

Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Since there is not a specific lab test that reliably identifies chronic fatigue syndrome, and because CFS closely resembles other illnesses such as mononucleosis, fibromyalgia, Lyme Disease, and multiple sclerosis, the first diagnostic step usually involves a series of tests that will help the physician rule out other illnesses.