Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a neurological illness that can affect people at any age. It’s characterized by deep fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, exercise intolerance, and “brain fog.” However, just like many other illnesses, CFS is unique to each person who has it and can cause the type and intensity of symptoms to vary.
While a single cause of CFS has not been pinpointed yet, it is thought that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes to its development. Diagnosing CFS is based on reported symptoms and process of elimination.
There are three “core” symptoms that are required to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Less ability to carry out activities that were undemanding before the illness. This decrease in activity level accompanied by fatigue must be experienced for six months or longer. While fatigue is a common occurrence for most people, CFS fatigue is categorized by being:
- Not a result of difficult activity
- Not relieved by sleeping
- Was not a life-long problem before the illness
- Tiredness worsens dramatically after “normal” activities. For example, a simple grocery trip would cause exhaustion so severe that the sufferer would require a nap before going home.
- Sleep problems. The patient does not feel relieved/less tired after a full night’s rest. Also, falling asleep and staying asleep is difficult.
Since there is currently no “cure” for chronic fatigue syndrome, treatment is focused on symptom relief.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications are great for improving some of the problems associated with CFS. Counseling is also recommended for those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as CFS. Additionally, there is a strong focus on addressing the sleep issues by reducing caffeine intake and changing bedtime routines.
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