Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – When You’re Tired Of Being Tired

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder characterised by extreme fatigue or tiredness that doesn’t go away even after rest, and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition. It’s also commonly referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID).

CFS affects thousands of people worldwide, but is sadly one of those frustrating illnesses that doesn’t really have a definitive cause, or a finite treatment.

Possible Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Extensive research into CFS shows that some people may be genetically predisposed to suffering from the disorder. Other lines of thought are that, because some people develop CFS after contracting a viral infection, it could be triggered by a virus. Studies into the Epstein-Barr, human herpes and mouse leukemia viruses have, however, proved inconclusive.

There is some indication that CFS sufferers have slightly impaired immune systems, but it hasn’t yet been determined if this impairment is severe enough to cause the disorder. Hormonal imbalances and low blood pressure are also thought to be possible contributing factors.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may not actually be one unique condition, but rather the end stage of a many different conditions. Their research shows that up to 12% of people suffering from Ross River virus, Epstein-Barr virus and Coxiella burnetti develops conditions that lend themselves to a CFS diagnosis.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Despite its name, there are actually a number of symptoms of CFS, other than just chronic fatigue. These additional symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Loss of memory and/or concentration
  • Unexplained muscle pain
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your armpits or neck
  • Headaches that follow a new pattern, or which are unusually severe
  • Extreme exhaustion after exercise, that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Pain that migrates from joint to joint, without redness or swelling

CFS symptoms can sometimes be cyclic, with sufferers feeling better for a time, and then suddenly feeling worse again. Symptoms can even disappear completely for a time, and then reappear later on. The unpredictability of the illness makes managing the symptoms very challenging.

Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Despite presenting with symptoms of CFS, you are first likely to be given a thorough check up to ensure that there isn’t another potential cause of your fatigue. Some illnesses whose symptoms can mimic those of CFS include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lupus
  • Mononucleosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • A major depressive disorder.

Being severely obese, or suffering from a sleep disorder, can cause CFS-like symptoms, as can the side effects of certain drugs.

If, after ruling out other causes, your doctor diagnoses you with CFS, treatment consists of managing symptoms, as there is no curative regimen. Your treatment will be tailored to your individual symptoms, but could include anti-depressants, sleeping pills, a gentle and graded exercise plan and psychological counselling.

Dr Alain Sanua is a qualified Medical Doctor who is a passionate practitioner of Integrated Medicine. He is particularly interested in treating persistent conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. To make an appointment to discuss your symptoms with him, please phone our Bryanston practice on (011) 463 1614, or our Dunkeld practice on (011) 447 0525.


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