Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Things You Most Likely Didn't Know About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Are you suffering from chronic fatigue that never seems to go away and is interfering with the quality of their life?, it’s probably CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). Aptly named, CFS is a chronic condition that is characterized by fatigue or exhaustion.

Often there is no known cause. This can be very frustrating for the sufferer and those who live with someone who is suffering in this way. It’s so much worse than just being tired and unfortunately, people who don’t have it often don’t understand it.

Many people with CFS feel judged, misunderstood, and not heard. Worse, some people who experience short-term exhaustion will self-diagnose and say that the latest diet or treatment fixed them, which can complicate issues even more for the sufferer who has undoubtedly tried everything under the sun to get better but can’t. Maybe the next thing will help. Keep trying.

But, like most things that are scary, understanding the issue can often help one deal with it in a new way. You may not find a cure, but you can learn how to deal with it, and stand up for yourself or your loved one who has it.

What Is CFS?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a very debilitating disease of unknown origin. It’s has the characteristics of persistent exhaustion, reduction of productivity, loss of quality of life, along with depression.

Rather than simply being a symptom of another disease (which it can be), it’s a debilitating issue all on its own that sometimes cannot be properly diagnosed or treated due to the abundance of symptoms that sometimes come and go. But the thing that makes it chronic is the fact that it always comes back.

Individuals who get CFS are varied, making diagnosis especially difficult. Over one million Americans have it, and many more around the world. In fact, it’s even got a new name since so many people have it. It has been renamed as myalgic encephalomyelitis and it is now often called ME for short.

In this article, I'm going to call it CFS since that’s still what it's most commonly called. However, ME is probably more accurate.

What we do know about CFS is:

People who get it are often in their 40s and 50s - but anyone can get it.
Development in women is  four times as often as others.
It's often not serious but for about a quarter it is severe.

If the condition is mild, most people manage it on their own and never even seek professional care about it because they think it’s normal.

Individuals with moderate symptoms tend to seek help because they cannot move around for long periods of time and have no choice but to nap in the afternoons. This is when it starts interfering with jobs or worse, causing additional issues as people seek relief using stimulating drugs.

When symptoms get severe, it’s beginning to affect the quality of life in a bad way - as badly as anyone with issues people deem more serious like lupus, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Triggers of CFS

Right now, we do not know what causes CFS. However, there does seem to be a family genetic history to it in some cases. We don’t know yet if this is just that the family is more susceptible, or that something in the genetic makeup is causing it.

There is also some research to suggest that some people who have CFS also have the Epstein-Barr virus (known to cause mononucleosis) or the Ross River virus (a debilitating virus which affects joints, making them painful and swollen).

Moreso, a lot of CFS suffers are found to have Coxiella burnetii - a bacterial pathogen which causes fever, usually when someone is already infected with something else. But we still don’t know what comes first, CFS or another disease such as Lyme Disease which is also characterized by chronic fatigue. CFS goes together with other illnesses too, from MS to fibromyalgia to hypothyroidism and many others.

Getting sick and then seems to take an extra-long time to recover or is not recovering, suspect CFS to be an issue. If you know what it could be, you can alert the doctor who can ask the right questions so that you can get the right diagnosis.

Symptoms of CFS

There are many symptoms of CFS, so let’s talk about as many of them as we can. It’s important to note that the main symptom is fatigue or exhaustion for six months or more that doesn’t seem to be getting better, but that isn’t all. Many of the other symptoms can be just as debilitating and made worse piled on top of chronic fatigue.


The main characteristic of CFS is the debilitating fatigue. As mentioned, if the fatigue is lasting six months or more, it’s considered a big indicator that the patient has CFS. Fatigue itself is characterized by a whole host of symptoms too, such as chronic sleepiness, headache, vertigo, aching muscles, muscle weakness, imparted reflexes, judgment issues, moodiness and more.

One sufferer describes her feelings of fatigue like this:

"You know how you feel when you’re just finally falling off to sleep? But then someone wakes you? Or you know how you felt the fourth day after giving birth, and you’ve not slept but a few hours? You never thought you could be that tired. That’s how you feel when you have CFS. But it doesn’t ever get better. The baby never grows up. No matter how much sleep or rest you get the tiredness sticks with you. You’re always in perpetual need of sleep but sleep doesn’t help."

People with CFS experience extra fatigue after doing things normal people do all the time, such as cleaning the kitchen or vacuuming the floor. They feel as if they climbed a mountain and their legs and arms are filled with lead. They must sleep. But it doesn’t help because they also have fatigue after sleeping. It never ends.

People with CFS also experience the following:

Sleep Disturbances – Sometimes people with CFS try to sleep and can’t fall asleep or stay asleep even though they feel on the verge of falling asleep all the time. They wake up due to any sound, or roll over and wake up, or take hours just to fall asleep due to watching the clock worried about needing to get up and function.

Cognitive Problems – People with CFS often feel as if they cannot make decisions and often their judgment is impaired. They cannot read and remember something. They can’t pay attention to daily activities such as cooking, for example. They may forget what they were doing, and their short-term memory suffers.

Anxiety – The issues associated with CFS often cause the person to feel very anxious about their lives. They feel as if they’re failures and cannot get up. Going to or planning anything sends them into anxiety because they worry they won’t be able to live up to their obligations. They may plan something a few days or months down the line and bow out due to not being able to stay awake that day enough to be around people. They may not have the energy to get dressed.

Depression – When reality sets in, many people with CFS suffer from depression. This is depression for a reason. They can’t do the things they once loved doing; society can be judgmental about that, and no one understands. They may self-isolate and then depression becomes a serious matter for them.

Headaches – Many people with CFS also suffer from migraine disorders too, which is why many people with CFS also get headaches. This is not just a regular headache either; it’s a debilitating addition to the fatigue that plagues them.

Muscle Aches – Sometimes this is due to a primary issue such as MS or fibromyalgia causing the CFS in the first place, but some CFS suffers experience muscle aches and pains as part of the condition.

Muscle Weakness – Many people with CFS have weak muscles, often due to being too lethargic to exercise or move around. But we don't know which came first. What we do know is that the CDC states that for some CFS patients, hard exercise makes the condition worse.

Pain Sensitivity – This is another issue that may be caused by primary conditions that are causing the CFS but made much worse by the CFS. Sufferers seem to have a heightened sense of pain.

Sore Throat – Many people with CFS complain of sore throats more than others. This can sometimes be due to a recurring strep infection, which may also be a cause of CFS in some people.

Low-Grade Fever – A lot of CFS sufferers have many low-grade fevers that cannot be traced back to a pathogen. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one; we just don’t know what it is yet.

Body Pain – Many people with CFS report overall body pain, and this is true whether they have an underlying problem with MS or fibromyalgia or not.

Slow Reflexes – Many people with CFS have slow reflexes due to their exhaustion and not being able to focus at all.

These symptoms and more characterize CFS and are part of the problem with getting a good diagnosis. Even the diagnosis of CFS can be depressing because there is no cure for CFS and if it is severe it can be debilitating. It does qualify for disability in most countries with a social system, but it can take years and years to get approval - even with a doctor’s recommendation

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