Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By:    Published: March 28, 2012

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Individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) often spend hours sleeping or lying around each day because they are too weak and exhausted to do simple every day activities. Exercise, stress and even normal physical activity can increase CFS symptoms. However, even after extended periods of rest, the condition does not improve.

Definition

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a specific combination of symptoms that occurs in individuals for an extended period of time. It is a debilitating condition that severely interferes with an individual’s ability to maintain normal daily function. Individuals who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome experience long-lasting, extreme fatigue that prevents them from performing routine daily tasks.

Symptoms

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can be difficult to identify, as they are very similar to those symptoms that occur with other common illnesses such as the flu or other common viral infections. The main symptom that is reported in individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome is extreme tiredness that is not improved after adequate rest and is severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities.

Unlike the flu and other common viruses, the fatigue associated with chronic fatigue syndrome lasts for more than six months. Additional symptoms experienced by most CFS sufferers include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain

Many individuals also report symptoms such as confusion, an inability to concentrate, irritability and memory loss. Some CFS sufferers also experience a fever, sore throat and swelling in the glands in the throat and the armpits.

Causes And Risk Factors

Doctors are not certain what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. Current research suggests that the Epstein-Barr virus and the human herpes virus-6 may be contributing factors in the development of the disease. Many doctors also believe that individuals who suffer from CFS may have a genetic component for the disease.

Other factors that can influence the development of the disease in susceptible individuals include stress, environmental toxins, history of prior illness and hormonal factors. Chronic fatigue syndrome affects both men and women and can occur at any age. However, the majority of individuals who become ill with the disease are women between the ages of 30 and 50.

Diagnostic Tests

There are no specific tests that can confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Many individuals who have CFS will have an elevated white blood count and may have abnormal brain scan results. However, these results are not present in all individuals who suffer from the disease. Doctors rely on the patient’s description of symptoms to make a diagnosis.

Standard tests such as blood work and a physical examination are first performed to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms of CFS. Possible conditions that have symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Drug addiction or withdrawals
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) or other nerve/muscle disorders
  • Diseases of the endocrine system
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Tumors
  • Psychological or mood disorders such as depression
  • Illnesses that affect the heart, kidneys or liver

In the absence of any underlying conditions, individuals who present with persistent symptoms that fit the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome will receive a confirmed diagnosis.

Treatment

Current medical treatment does not provide a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. Individuals who suffer from CFS can rely on treatment to manage their disease, control symptoms and help improve their condition. Many of the medications that are prescribed to treat CFS symptoms do have a history of causing unwanted side effects.

Individuals who experience negative side effects need to weigh the risks of continuing on medication and determine if they would be better off without it. Typical medical treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Employing sleep management techniques to improve sleep quality
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Anxiety medication
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Anti-depressant medication

Home Care

There are many natural ways to make healthy life changes that can improve symptoms of CFS. By implementing healthy lifestyle changes, individuals can help get their symptoms under control, learn how to manage their daily lives and work towards a decrease in the occurrence and severity of CFS symptoms.

Unlike conventional medication, homecare treatments are safe and, generally, do not have any negative or unwanted side effects. Home care strategies for treating and managing chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage therapy
  • Reflexology
  • Muscle relaxation techniques
  • Stretching exercises and yoga
  • Biofeedback
  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Practicing time management skills
  • Aromatherapy
  • Avoidance of artificial sweeteners

By utilizing as many natural home care techniques as possible, individuals can help gain control over their lives and reduce symptoms, especially those that are stress related.

Many conventional medications can have side effects that are more troublesome than the symptoms they are prescribed to treat. Those who are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome should discuss natural treatment options with their doctor.

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