Everyone feels fatigue once in a while. Lack of sleep, stress, and busy lifestyle can all prevent us from getting enough rest. In most cases, we recover quickly and go on with life. In cases of chronic fatigue syndrome, the fatigue doesn’t go away for months or even years.
Chronic fatigue syndrome, now being called “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease” affects over 2.5 million people in the United States. Once called “yuppie flu” and widely investigated. It wasn’t completely a verifiable illness until recently. Researchers now say this is a real illness and believes it is quite serious. This article contains information on chronic fatigue syndrome, the symptoms and some helpful tips on how to manage it.
This illness lives up to its name, chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a severe and disabling fatigue that cannot be attributed to other health issues, gets worse with stress or physical activity, and does not improve with rest.
Researchers still do not know what causes it, but it may be viral, stress related, or a combination of things. It can hamper the ability to work and perform normal daily functions. Chronic fatigue syndrome has the following criteria:
1. Fatigue that has lasted at least six months.
2. Fatigue that interferes with work and normal daily functions.
3. Four or more of the following:
Fatigue after exertion that lasts longer than 24 hours
Not feeling rested after sleep
Loss of concentration or short-term memory
Pain in the muscles
Lymph node tenderness
The above symptoms cannot be explained and are not related to any other illness.
The first symptom to appear with chronic fatigue syndrome is the actual fatigue. Other symptoms always come on after the fatigue appears. The fatigue must be present for at least 6 months. Other symptoms include:
Muscle pain that does not go away
Poor concentration and memory
Lymph node tenderness
Dizziness, balance problems, fainting issues
Chemical sensitivities, food allergies, problems with noise
Fast or irregular heartbeats
Blurry vision, eye pain, eyes sensitive to light
If you have any of the above symptoms, it is important to go see your doctor to be evaluated.
They still do not understand what actually causes chronic fatigue syndrome. There are a lot of different factors that show up in sufferers, but there hasn’t been a single cause pinpointed. Some of the triggers may include:
Viruses (Herpes HHV-6, Eppstein-Barr)
Nervous system inflammation
Overactive immune system
Researchers believe a combination of the above trigger an immune system response. This may be in addition to other risk factors that raise the risk of getting chronic fatigue syndrome.
Certain groups are at higher risk for chronic fatigue syndrome. These include:
Women. While men can get chronic fatigue syndrome, it seems to be more prevalent in women.
People Under Stress. It was once called “yuppie flu” because people in high stress occupations tend to get chronic fatigue more often.
40 to 50 Year Olds. This illness seems to affect people that are mostly between the ages of 40 and 50, although it can happen to anyone at any time.
There is no test for chronic fatigue syndrome. If you experience the symptoms above for longer than 6 months, the doctor will check labs, imaging studies, and ask questions about your health. If all other causes are ruled out, the doctor can make a diagnosis if you meet the criteria in the first section, “What is chronic fatigue Syndrome.”
There is no medication that can cover all of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Treatment usually combines a number of therapies to help relieve the symptoms. The following are some common medical treatments:
Medications. Doctor’s may try antidepressants, medications for ADHD to improve focus, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. They may be used one at a time or in combination to cover more symptoms of the illness.
Graded Exercise. This is exercise that begins with low intensity and increases as you tolerate. If you begin to feel fatigued, the exercise level drops down in intensity until tolerance improves.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Therapists can teach you to do the following; journaling symptoms, positive thinking, learning how to improve memory and concentration, and managing activities to prevent fatigue.
Paced Activities. This means pacing activities throughout the day, week, and month. You need to break up large tasks and do them a little at a time to prevent wearing yourself out.
Diet. A healthy diet can help with any illness. With chronic fatigue, it is important to get the right vitamins and nutrients from; fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. It is also important to eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to help improve brain function.
If you work and have chronic fatigue syndrome, you may need to make arrangements for alternative work schedules to allow time for rest. Many companies recognize chronic fatigue as an illness and can make arrangements. Some people feel better in the mornings, while others feel better in the afternoon.
You may find that you need to cut out some of your extra activities. Learn to say “no” if you don’t feel up to that Sunday cook-out with friends.
There are some very safe alternative medicine therapies that can help with symptoms. These include; yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, relaxation, and acupuncture. Your doctor may approve of using these along with any medical treatments.
Supplements can be helpful with your doctor’s approval. Some of the supplements that may help with chronic fatigue are:
Some of the herbs touted to help chronic fatigue could be dangerous. A few of these are; St. John’s Wort, Gingko, Comfrey, and Ma Huang. If you want to try herbal remedies, see your doctor and check for adverse effects before using any.
Since the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, there is no prevention or cure at this time.
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