While the outcome is extreme exhaustion, chronic fatigue syndrome (symptoms are not always apparent, which can sometimes lead other people (even doctors) to think that sufferers are imagining things or being hypochondriacs.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) first appeared in the 1980's, and is known by several other names, including Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Chronic Epstein Barr Syndrome, Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome, and Chronic Mononucleosis.
CFS affects more women than men (up to four times as many), and is most often seen in people between the ages of 30 and 50. But older children, especially teenagers are also susceptible.
In spite of continuing research, scientists and the medical community are still unclear on the causes of CFS and some continue to debate whether it is a bona fide health condition.
Though, the general consensus among researchers suggests that CFS is a the result of a viral infection - most likely the Epstein Barr virus or Human Herpes Virus-6 (HHV-6). These viruses affect the immune system to such a degree that the body may not be able to "fight off" the virus entirely. As a result, people are left with CFS.
CFS Symptoms: Extreme Fatigue Plus Other Indicators
Obviously, extreme fatigue is the number one symptom of CFS. To be considered a symptom for a diagnosis of CFS, the fatigue needs to have been present for at least 6 months. In addition, it cannot be a direct result of another illness or disease and does not improve with rest.
Moreover, the fatigue must have a significant impact on your ability to live normally, reducing your activity level by at least 50%, and often becoming debilitating after even mild exercise or effort.
In addition to extreme fatigue, you need to also have a minimum of four other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms included on the list below to be diagnosed with CFS. Note that not all sufferers will experience the same symptoms, or to the same degree.
The chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms above are the ones that are most commonly seen, but there are a host of other symptoms that you may or may not experience with the condition. These may come and go, remain fairly constant, or they may peak and then slowly diminish over time.
Additionally, it's impossible to say whether the following are part of CFS itself, occur as a result of the primary chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms listed above, or are related to a compromised immune system. Abdominal pain and/or digestive upset such as nausea or diarrhea
Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms
If your doctor gives you a diagnosis of CFS, it can be a big relief to finally know what's causing you to feel so exhausted. Although there isn't a cure for CFS, there are several different things that you can do to help yourself feel better.
Sometimes a doctor may prescribe pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and pain. In addition, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-viral medications, and antibiotics may also be prescribed, based on the symptoms and issues exhibited b the patient.
Making sure that you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet is also important, as is getting regular, exercise. Your doctor may recommend an exercise regimen, or refer you to a physical therapist.
Alternative treatments like acupuncture, aromatherapy, and herbal supplements may help reduce chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and massage have helped some sufferers, as well.
Recovering from CFS
As with just about everything else related to this condition, there are no hard-and-fast rules about recovery. Some people recover fully within six to 18 months, while others experience symptoms for several years.
There are also individuals who never totally "get over" CFS. Though, the majority are able to function normally but suffer from weak immune systems and below-average energy levels.
So, if you think you may have CFS, or have just been diagnosed, keeping seeing your doctor, follow your treatment program, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and try to stay positive. For the majority of people with CFS, recovery does occur over time and energy levels return.
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