With increasingly busy lifestyles come a host of troublesome side effects. Experiencing exhaustion, lethargy or dullness is, in fact, so common nowadays that we hardly give it a second thought. But if you are feeling constantly tired and weary, even after rest, it’s probably worth looking into.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex and debilitating disorder with no single cause. It is marked by excessive fatigue or exhaustion which doesn’t improve with rest. CFS is difficult to diagnose as its symptoms overlap with those of other medical conditions. It is also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). The causes of this disorder are uncertain. It is attributed to a variety of factors like psychological stress, viral infections, anesthesia, and trauma. People in their 40s and 50s experience chronic fatigue most often.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is an illness which affects the nervous system. Its main feature is an unexplained and disabling fatigue known as post-exertional ‘crash’ or ‘payback’. Since CFS is a complicated multi-system, chronic disorder, there are many other symptoms that need to be present during diagnosis.
Some common symptoms include:
1. Difficulty in concentrating, impaired memory and inattentiveness
2. Chronic headaches
3. Muscle pain
5. Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
7. Currently, there is no specified test to confirm the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors conduct a number of medical tests to rule out other medical conditions with similar features. The fatigue and other symptoms also have to last for six months or longer. Chronic fatigue accompanies many medical problems. So it may not be an isolated symptom.
There is no confirmed cure for this illness and symptoms vary for patients. Individual management plans are therefore developed by doctors, according to the stage of CFS/ME.
There are only two treatments, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy, with enough evidence of efficacy to people suffering from CFS. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (October 2006) published a review stating that these two treatments produced good results. They seemed to reduce symptoms and improve function to an extent.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is offered to people suffering from a moderate or mild form of ME/CFS.
It is a talking treatment that tries to change how the person thinks and behaves to alleviate the symptoms of CFS.
Graded exercise therapy (GET) is a structured exercise treatment. It generally includes exercises for raising the heart rate, such as swimming or walking. GET aims to increase the time span for which a CFS patient can carry out physical activity.
Unfortunately, there are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs for the treatment of ME/CFS.
It’s important for CFS patients to eat at regular intervals and maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Eating starchy food products and sipping drinks slowly may help when people are feeling nauseous.
According to The Lancet, 200 CFS patients participated in a recent trial for a duration of 12 weeks. They performed workouts with either phone or online support from a physiotherapist. The physical activity of these patients slowly improved as they formed daily routines.
The report suggests that these expert-guided exercises can offer relief to CFS sufferers. They will not have to exert themselves to visit a clinic either.
Lucy Clark, the study’s lead researcher, commented-
“We found that a self-help approach to a graded exercise program (GES), guided by a therapist, was safe and also helped to reduce fatigue for some people with chronic fatigue syndrome.”
1. Reducing or eliminating caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake
2. Creating a regular sleep routine
3. Avoiding emotional and physical duress and pacing yourself between physical activities
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a difficult disorder. Full recovery is rare for patients in spite of comprehensive rehabilitation programs. With timely diagnosis and a carefully formulated management plan, however, you can improve your condition significantly.
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