What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but does not improve with rest. The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories- ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe the disorder might be triggered by a combination of factors. There is no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Treatment for the disorder focuses on symptom relief. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities.
What are the Risk Factors for Developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic fatigue syndrome include: age, sex, and stress. CFS can occur at any age, but it most commonly affects people in their 40’s and 50’s. Women are diagnosed with CFS much more often than men, but it may be that women are simply more likely to report their symptoms to a doctor. Difficulty managing stress may contribute to the development of CFS. CFS is rare in children. It may occur in teens, especially young teenage girls. Unlike adults, teens are more likely to develop CFS after having a flu-like illness.
How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treated?
Because chronic fatigue syndrome affects people in many different ways, your treatment will be tailored to your specific set of symptoms. Symptom relief may include certain medications. Antidepressants: many people who have CFS are also depressed. Treating your depression can make it easier for you to cope with the problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Low doses of some antidepressants also can help improve sleep and relieve pain. If home measures, such as avoiding caffeine, do not help you get better rest at night, your doctor may suggest trying prescription sleep aids. The most effective treatment for CFS appears to be a two-pronged approach that combines psychological counseling with a gentle exercise program. Graded exercise- a physical therapist can help determine what types of exercise are best for you. Inactive people often begin with range-of-motion and stretching exercises for just a few minutes a day. Psychological counseling- talking with a counselor can help you figure out options to work around some of the limitations that chronic fatigue syndrome imposes on you. Feeling more in control of your life can improve your outlook dramatically.