Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

If you are searching for a diagnosis for your symptoms of pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties, you may encounter some difficulties. Unfortunately, these symptoms are characteristic of a number of different disorders, including fibromyalgia. Many health care providers mistakenly diagnose fibromyalgia sufferers with chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating illness which causes extreme exhaustion. So when you go for a diagnosis, be sure to investigate chronic fatigue syndrome as well as fibromyalgia, to ensure that you get the right diagnosis..

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is an illness that is characterized by severe and ongoing fatigue. Also known as chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), this disorder attacks a number of different systems in your body. As a result, numerous other symptoms can develop alongside your fatigue. The syndrome can last for several months, with some people being plagued for years.

Overlapping Symptoms
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are very similar illnesses. In fact, up to 70% of their symptoms overlap. Overlapping symptoms include:

  • muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • irritable bowel symptoms
  • cognitive dysfunction
  • sleep disorders

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Disease: Concurrent Disorders
It is possible to suffer from both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome at the same time. In fact, between 20% and 30% of fibromyalgia sufferers have chronic fatigue. 35% of chronic fatigue patients also have fibromyalgia. It has been theorized that chronic fatigue syndrome is actually a sub-disorder of the fibromyalgia syndrome.

What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Unfortunately, the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown. However, there are a number of theories as to why it develops.

  • Epstein-Barr Virus: The Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that causes mononucleosis. Because mono is so similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, it has been theorized that this virus may be responsible for the syndrome.
  • Immune System Dysfunction: Chronic fatigue syndrome may be the result of immune system antibodies attacking cells in the body.
  • Nutritional Deficiency: The syndrome may be the result of nutritional deficiencies, like anemia.
  • Central Nervous System Dysfunction: The symptoms of chronic fatigue may be the result of problems in the brain or nervous system.

Who Gets Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome plagues about 500,000 men and women in the United States. It can affect people of all ages and cultures, however, certain people seem to be more likely to get the disease than others. Chronic fatigue syndrome commonly affects:

  • women (two to four times more women than men suffer from the disease)
  • people between the ages of 20 and 40
  • people with fibromyalgia

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms are numerous and widespread. Aside from exhaustion, sufferers can experience widely different symptoms. Symptoms tend to come in cycles, between which you may experience periods of remission.

The foremost symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome is extreme exhaustion. In order to be diagnosed with the illness, you need to have experienced this fatigue for more than six months. Chronic fatigue sufferers also experience a myriad of other symptoms, including:

  • headache
  • sore throat and tender lymph nodes
  • unrefreshing sleep
  • fatigue after exercise or mental exertion
  • depression
  • dizziness
  • muscle and joint pain

Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There is currently no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. Treatments focus on managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

Medications: Medications are often used to treat pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Some commonly used medications are:

  • over-the-counter painkillers
  • antidepressants
  • sleep medications

Exercise: Exercise is highly effective in reducing fatigue and pain associated with the syndrome. Exercise like yoga, tai chi, and swimming help to increase flexibility and stamina. Some sufferers report that exercise can actually be detrimental. So please consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

Alternative Therapies: Many chronic fatigue sufferers find relief through the use of alternative therapies including:

  • acupuncture
  • meditation
  • massage
  • biofeedback therapy
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