Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) causes intense exhaustion that sleep or rest cannot relieve. Those who suffer from CFS find that symptoms worsen with mental or physical activity, and that they function at lower than normal activity levels. More than 1 million Americans suffer from CFS, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (2010).
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms tend to be non-specific, mimicking other medical conditions. The most prevalent symptom of CFS is exhaustion. Other symptoms include:
- Impaired memory function
- Muscle pain
- Post-exertional fatigue
Other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms vary. Some people report joint pain, night sweats, sensitivity to light, panic attacks, dizziness and stiffness as CFS symptoms.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Less than refreshing sleep and insomnia are two symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. If you are experiencing signs of CFS, your doctor may ask you about your sleep habits. She may also advise you to take steps to improve your sleep, such as avoiding or limiting daytime naps, reducing caffeine intake, adhering to a regular sleep schedule, or engaging in moderate exercise a few hours before going to bed. In some cases, you may be prescribed a sleep aid to help with your sleep problems.
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can overlap with a number of other medical conditions, including sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Your doctor will rule out these other conditions as a possible cause of your symptoms before diagnosing CFS.
Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome is difficult, as no specific laboratory tests clearly indicate its presence. Due to the vague nature of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms many cases go undiagnosed.
Doctors make a CFS diagnosis by ruling out other illnesses. In order to be diagnosed with CFS, a person must experience at least four of the following symptoms, simultaneously, for a period of six months or more:
Difficulty concentrating and memory problemsExhaustionMultiple-joint pain (without swelling or redness) Muscle pain Odd headaches (new in terms of pain and pattern) Sore throat Tender lymph nodes Unsatisfying sleep.
Who Gets Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome affects people of all ages and both genders. The Centers for Disease Control (2010) reports that CFS is four times more common in woman than men, and often strikes individuals in their 40s and 50s.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
While there isn’t a definite cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, some think it might be related to an immune dysfunction, infection or problems with the nervous system. Researchers are also studying possible genetic links of CFS and are considering environmental contributors.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment
No cure for CFS exists. Chronic fatigue syndrome treatment relieves symptoms, improves functioning and encourages helpful lifestyle changes. Recovery rates vary from person to person.
Chronic fatigue syndrome treatment plans may include cognitive-behavioral therapy and alternative therapies such as acupuncture. Gentle stretching, low-intensity exercise and physical therapy may help overcome chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
Medical chronic fatigue syndrome treatment is limited. Pain and sleep medication are used to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
As early treatment plans seem to make a big difference in the fight to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome, a timely CFS diagnosis is very important. Possible chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms should be reported to a doctor.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/general/index.html.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Chronic fatigue syndrome. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/DS00395.
Office of Research on Women’s Health. (n.d.). Chronic fatigue syndrome. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://orwh.od.nih.gov/cfs.html.