Signs of chronic fatigue to watch out for
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterised by extreme fatigue or tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest, and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition. CFS can also be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).
The causes of CFS aren’t well-understood. Some theories include viral infection, psychological stress, or a combination of factors. Because no single cause has been identified, and because many other illnesses produce similar symptoms, CFS can be difficult to diagnose. There are no tests for CFS, so your doctor will have to rule out other causes for your fatigue.
Scientists are starting to understand the biological causes of ME/CFS, although they have not yet found a prevention or cure. Genes appear to be a factor in many cases.
Over 4,000 research articles have found that ME/CFS is associated with problems involving:
the body’s ability to produce and transport energy
the immune, neurological and hormonal systems
viral or other infections
blood pressure, the circulatory and cardiac systems
Risk factors for CFS
CFS is most common among people in their 40s and 50s. Gender also plays an important role in CFS, as female patients outnumber males by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio. Genetic predisposition, allergies, stress, and environmental factors may also increase your risk.
What are the symptoms of CFS?
The symptoms of CFS vary from person to person and based on the severity of the condition. The most common symptom is fatigue that is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities. For CFS to be diagnosed, fatigue must last for at least six months and must not be curable with bed rest, and you must have at least four other symptoms as well.
Other symptoms of CFS may include:
loss of memory or concentration
feeling unrefreshed after a night’s sleep
clumsiness, muscle twitching or tingling (sometimes called ‘neurocognitive problems’)
chronic insomnia (and other sleep disorders)
multi-joint pain without redness or swelling
frequent sore throat
tender lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
a drop in blood pressure, feeling dizzy or pale
palpitations, increased heart rate or shortness of breath with exertion or on standing
allergies or sensitivities to light, smells, touch, sound, foods, chemicals and medications
gastrointestinal changes such as nausea, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea
sore throat, tender lymph nodes and a flu-like feeling
marked weight change – extreme loss or gain
inability to cope with temperature changes.
You may also experience illness or extreme fatigue after physical or mental activities. This can last for more than 24 hours after the activity
People are sometimes affected by CFS in cycles, with periods of feeling worse and then better again. Symptoms may sometimes even disappear completely (remission). However, it’s still possible for them to come back again later (relapse). The cycle of remission and relapse can make it difficult to manage your symptoms.
Think you or a loved one may have ME/CFS?
A diagnosis for any medical condition is essential. With ME/CFS it becomes critical as the condition can present quite differently for different people and has symptoms that can be attributed to other conditions.
People who receive an early diagnosis and early treatment tend to do better. Having a supportive community of family, friends, school, work, employers and health workers, who understand the potential seriousness of ME/CFS, can improve recovery for people with the condition. It is important to find a doctor who is not only sympathetic to ME/CFS, but can also treat it. Treatment choice will vary and will depend on the results of the additional testing.
Check out the useful fact sheets from Emerge Australia (organisation supporting people with CFS/ME and their families)
It is important to seek medical advice if you are concerned at all that you may be suffering from Chronic fatigue syndrome. The sooner you act the better, contact one of our practices today.
Better Health VIC