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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS; Fatigue - chronic; Immune dysfunction syndrome; Myalgic encephalomyelitis-ME. Chronic fatigue syndrome refers to severe, continued tiredness that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other medical conditions.

CAUSES
The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome CFS is unknown. Some theories suggest CFS may be due to:

  • Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6); however, no specific virus has been identified as the cause
  • Inflammation in the nervous system, because of a faulty immune system response The following may also play a role in the development of CFS:
  • Age
  • Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6); however, no specific virus has been identified as the cause
  • Previous illnesses
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors

CFS most commonly occurs in women ages 30 to 50.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Symptoms of CFS are similar to those of the flu and other common viral infections, and include muscle aches, headache, and extreme fatigue. However, symptoms of CFS last for 6 months or more.

The main symptom of CFS is extreme tiredness (fatigue), which is:

  • New
  • Lasts at least 6 months
  • Not relieved by bed rest
  • Severe enough to keep you from participating in certain activities

Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling extremely tired for more than 24 hours after exercise that would normally be considered easy
  • Feeling unrefreshed after sleeping for a proper amount of time
  • Forgetfulness
  • Concentration problems
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain but no swelling or redness
  • Headaches that differ from those you have had in the past
  • Irritability
  • Mild fever (101 degrees F or less)
  • Muscle aches myalgia’s
  • Muscle weakness, all over or multiple locations, not explained by any known disorder
  • Sore throat
  • Sore lymph nodes in the neck or under the arms

TREATMENT
There is currently no cure for CFS. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Many people with CFS have depression and other psychological disorders that may improve with treatment.

Treatment includes a combination of the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and graded exercise for certain patients
  • Healthy diet
  • Sleep management techniques
  • Medications to reduce pain, discomfort, and fever
  • Medications to treat anxiety (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • Medications to treat depression (antidepressant drugs)

Some medications can cause reactions or side effects that are worse than the original symptoms of the disease.

Patients with CFS are encouraged to maintain active social lives. Mild physical exercise may also be helpful. Your health care team will help you figure out how much activity you can do, and how to slowly increase your activity. Tips include:

  • Avoiding doing too much on days when you feel tired
  • Balancing your time between activity, rest, and sleep
  • Breaking big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones
  • Spreading out more challenging tasks throughout the week

Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques can help manage chronic pain and fatigue. They are not used as the primary treatment for CFS. Relaxation techniques include:

  • Biofeedback
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Muscle relaxation techniques
  • Yoga


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