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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating condition characterized by profound tiredness, regardless of bed rest. CFS symptoms may actually worsen with physical or mental activity. CFS can occur suddenly and last for years. CFS affects three to four times more females than males. The cause of CFS has not been identified, nor are there specific tests available to diagnose the condition.

CFS sometimes is called chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome.

What are the symptoms of CFS?

Symptoms of CFS often mimic the flu. The following are the most common symptoms of CFS. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Photophobia (eye sensitivity to light)

  • Headache

  • Tender lymph nodes

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Muscle and joint pain

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Insomnia

  • Ability to remember exact onset of illness

  • Forgetfulness

  • Mood swings

  • Confusion

  • Low-grade fever

  • Depression

The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosed?

CFS diagnosis depends on two criteria:

  1. Severity and duration. The severe and chronic tiredness lasts for more than six months and other medical conditions have been ruled out.

  2. Number of symptoms. The patient has four or more of the symptoms of CFS.

A specific treatment for CFS has yet to be proven effective. Vitamin supplements and medications have some therapeutic benefit for some CFS patients, but many treatments just alleviate the symptoms of CFS.

How is treatment determined?

Treatment is determined by your health care provider and based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Medication, including anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, and others

  • Light-intensity aerobic exercise (but avoid moderate to vigorously intense physical activity) 

  • Dietary supplements and herbal preparations

  • Psychotherapy and supportive counseling

  • Vitamin B12 supplements

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