Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that is characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest. Fatigue caused by this condition is ongoing and may worsen after physical activity or mental exertion. Anyone can suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, although it is most common in middle aged women. The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown which makes this condition difficult to treat.
Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome may experience symptoms similar to those of the flu or other viral infections. These symptoms may include:
- Persistent fatigue
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle soreness
- Trouble sleeping
- Extreme exhaustion after exercise
The main symptom that individuals experience is fatigue, which seems to occur continuously, however, other symptoms may come and go over time with no recognizable pattern.
Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although it sometimes occurs after a viral infection such as a cold or other viral illness. Other causes may include immune system problems, genetics, or hormonal imbalances. In addition, some people may be more likely than others to develop chronic fatigue syndrome including those who are:
- In their 40's and 50's
- Living stressful lives
Low blood pressure and nutritional deficiencies may also contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. Left untreated, chronic fatigue syndrome may lead to frequent absences from work or school, depression, and social isolation.
Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic those of other health conditions. While there is no specific diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome, a doctor will review all symptoms, perform a physical examination and additional tests such as blood tests and urinalysis, to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If chronic fatigue syndrome is suspected, a customized treatment plan will be created.
Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There is no specific treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. Treatments may vary, but the common goal is to relieve symptoms through a combination of methods. An individualized treatment approach is most effective in treating this complex condition. For many patients, multiple techniques may be recommended before finding a unique approach that works. Depending on the symptoms, a doctor may recommend:
- Avoiding stress
- Gradual exercise training
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Allergy treatment such as antihistamines and decongestants
- Acupuncture or massage for pain
Medication may also be prescribed to treat depression in individuals that suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. Antidepressants may also help to improve sleep and relieve pain.
In addition to following a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor, individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome may find relief by maintaining a healthy, stress-free lifestyle, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and attending support groups.