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When we get tired, we sit down and stop our work for a while. If it’s at the end of the day, we go to sleep. We expect to wake up feeling less tired and ready to do more mental or physical work. However, this is not always the case for everyone because of a long-term condition called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition characterized by extreme tiredness even after bed rest (Johns Hopkins Medicine). Sometimes it affects the ordinary daily activities of the person (National Health Portal India). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can affect anyone, children included. It’s more common in women, tending to develop between the mid-20s and mid-40s (UK National Health Services).
Although tiredness is the most common symptom, CFS has a wide range of symptoms that often occur together, affecting multiple body systems. Some other symptoms include (NHP India; Centers for Disease Control; National Library of Medicine):
- Thinking and concentration problems
- Alterations in memory and mood
- Post-exertional malaise (PEM), which is a delay in the recovery of muscle strength after exertion, leaving patients bedridden for several consecutive days. This can happen after daily activities like walking, showering, or talking (Spotila,2010). This is the main criteria used to distinguish CFS from other medical conditions.
- Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Sleep disturbance
- Muscle pain
- Depression, stress, and anxiety
- Multi-joint pain with swelling or redness
Scientists and researchers have not yet been able to identify the specific cause of CFS.
Chronic Fatigue syndrome shares similar symptoms with other illnesses, making diagnosis difficult. Since CFS affects multiple body systems, its symptoms vary from person to person.
A diagnosis is made, if all the criteria below apply (National Library of Medicine):
- Symptoms are persistent for 6 months, and at least some occur daily and are of moderate severity.
- Other diagnoses are excluded by history, physical examination, and medical testing, including learning disabilities.
- The severity of symptoms over a pre-determined cut-off score.
As the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not yet identified, current treatment aims to relieve the symptoms, improving quality of life, and enabling patients to do ordinary day-to-day activities. The treatment plan is therefore tailored to each person’s symptoms (National Library of Medicine):
- There is no specific medicine for CFS. You can get medication for headaches, painful joints, insomnia, and other symptoms (medication should be taken under a doctor’s prescription).
- Pacing– this is a self-management tool that helps to implement strategy designed to help people live within their energy envelope, minimize post exertional malaise, and improve quality of life.
- Supervised meditation, physiotherapy, and relaxation to ease pain.
- Sleep hygiene, which are fixed sleeping hours for patients.
- Increased water and rehydration solutions to help with dizziness.
- A healthy and balanced diet.
- Social workers who could help with social welfare.