Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) afflicts roughly 2.5 million people in the United States, yet it remains a disease that is virtually undiagnosable. It’s often described as being under a heavy fog. As if the clouds have surrounded you and pinned you down. It’s an extreme fatigue that doesn’t pass with rest, and it’s still unclear what triggers it.
It can also often be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). And while many theories swirl as to its cause, none have been accurately assessed. Plus, CFS is nearly impossible to diagnose since no one specific test will confirm its existence.
Often, it means having to endure dozens, sometimes hundreds, of tests to rule out other diseases before achieving a diagnoses for chronic fatigue syndrome. It means enduring doctor visit after doctor visit, hospital visit after hospital visit, without a clear indication of what’s wrong, even though there is something clearly wrong.
Symptoms for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
CFS is categorized by extreme fatigue. Your muscles and your joints ache unexplainably. Your head pounds. You’re deprived of sleep. And when you do manage to get some rest, there’s nothing refreshing or restful about it. It often invokes periods of over 24 hours of extreme exhaustion. Sometimes, it’s so stifling that you can’t move or get out of bed.
For those that suffer from CFS, it’s clear that there’s a problem. However, what’s not as clear is actually solving that problem. Similar to being an incredibly difficult disease to diagnose, it’s also a virtually untreatable disease. There is no cure. But then again, most doctors don’t see it as a disease.
So how do you know if you have CFS? How can you tell that you’ve been plagued by this inexplicable and incurable illness? Aside from the extreme exhaustion, there are other telltale signs. Often, you suffer memory loss. The inability to remember things or concentrate seems to plague most afflicted with this bewildering disease.
Other signs exist as well. Headaches come and go. Often for unending hours. Your throat frequently gets sore. Your lymph nodes in your armpits become enlarged. And also in your neck. You tend to suffer from insomnia. Physically, your muscles are fatigued, often for more than a day at a time.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The jury is out on the causes of CFS. It’s still unbeknownst to medical professionals from around the world. At least, that’s our current understanding of it. But that doesn’t mean people won’t speculate. Researchers have a variety of ideas. Some think it’s a genetic predisposition to CFS that causes the disease. Others speculate it has something to do with a weakened immune system or even a hormonal imbalance.
It’s also be posited that CFS is beckoned by a viral infection. Some think that the viral infection is the gateway to the disease. Others disagree. One thing that seems to be common amongst most that contract CFS is a weakened immune system. However, doctors can’t prove where this alone can be the root cause of the disease.
While science might not be able to understand what causes the chronic fatigue, there are some similarities and congruencies that exist amongst patients that are diagnosed with CFS. But the biggest problem here is one of diagnosis. Since no single laboratory test exists to be able to determine whether a person has CFS, it’s frustrating for both doctors and patients.
Having to go through those dozens, or even hundreds, of tests just to determine if you have CFS is a journey that no patient or doctor enjoys. For now, we really don’t know the exact causes. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to determine this in the future. However, when you look beyond the mere biology and chemistry of an illness like CFS, and you begin to analyze things like the human-body field, you tend to see more of the root underlying causes of the problem.
However, nothing is perfect. Even detecting the energy in the human-body field can’t tell you the exact cause of CFS. While it can give you an understanding of the frequencies that might not be harmonious within the internal systems of the body and mind, it can only help you to determine what frequencies are being disrupted, and thus need to be changed.
Risks Associated with CFS
If you’re under an extreme amount of stress, and you’re at the proverbial end of your rope, you run a higher risk of chronic fatigue syndrome. Although the causes and diagnosis remain fairly mysterious, by looking at the aggregate of individuals who’ve contracted CFS, we can get a better understanding of the typical consumer avatar that this disease plagues.
- While chronic fatigues syndrome can occur at just about any age, it typically affects those that are in their 40s to 50s. Typically this range of 40 to 59 years old encompasses the majority of individuals that are diagnosed with CFS.
- Women tend to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome far more often than men. However, it’s been argued that men might be less likely to report their symptoms to doctors. Thus, men might not be diagnosed with CFS as often. Approximately 60 to 85% of cases involving chronic fatigues syndrome are women. That’s a fairly alarming statistic, especially for women thinking that they might have CFS.
- Of course, stress is a massive risk factor associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, this stress can also originate from childhood trauma. Oftentimes, when that stress stays buried deep within the mind, it can manifest itself in all sorts of illnesses.
- Those who have poor physical fitness also tend to have higher risks associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Pre-existing psychological conditions are also thought to be risk factors associated with the disease.
Managing Life with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There is no treatment that’s been approved by the FDA for chronic fatigue syndrome. There is no particular pill that can be prescribed to patients that have been diagnosed with CFS. That compounds the frustration levels. Not only is the disease difficult to diagnose, but it’s also impossible to treat.
So, the question then becomes, how to do manage life when you have chronic fatigue syndrome? What can you possibly do when you’re grappling with such a perplexing disease? One of the best things that you can possibly do is to follow the CDC guidelines for those that are dealing with CFS.
The CDC admits that there’s no cure. But they also do provide a guideline for what you can do to improve your health and mental condition when you’re dealing with chronic fatigue. Here’s what the CDC recommends that you should do if you’ve been diagnosed with CFS.
1. Managing Sleep Problems
Most patients that have chronic fatigues syndrome experience problems with sleep. Not only is it difficult to sleep, but the sleep is less refreshing, even when they do get some much needed shut-eye. In order to combat this, the CDC recommends instituting some good sleep habits that include the following:
- Develop a good routine. Be sure to invoke a calm and soothing environment before bed. That means you should avoid anything that’s going to keep you wound up such as alcohol, nicotine, big heavy meals or even exercise.
- Pick a time to get to bed every single night and stick to it. That’s how you develop a good habit. This is integral to battling the harmful sleeping side effects associated with chronic fatigue. This also means that you should pick a time in the morning to wake up at and stick to it.
- If you take naps during the day, try not to overdo them. Limit them to approximately 30 minutes at a time.
- Remove anything that can disrupt your sleep from your bedroom. That includes all your phones and computers and any other gadget that could cause a distraction.
- Don’t use your bed for any other activities aside from sleep and sex. This means that you should avoid doing things like listening to music and watching tv and even reading in bed.
2. Managing Your Pain
People dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome often have pain associated with their disease. Managing that pain is easier said than done. The CDC doesn’t have a particular pain regimen that it recommends. But it does have this to say.
- Don’t try any pain medication before talking to your healthcare provider.
- Before going to for under-the-counter pain relief options, talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Try to manage the pain with stretching and other movement-related therapies.
- Try heat and gentle massages when possible along with things like water therapy.
- Use acupuncture as an alternative through a license practitioner.
3. Depression, Stress and Anxiety
As a result of having chronic fatigue syndrome, you might experience more depression, stress and anxiety than normal. It’s also been determined that many who face CFS develop depression. The CDC recommends that you should treat depression and anxiety when they occur. But, that’s not a cure for CFS.
- Doctors should use caution when prescribing antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to people with CFS since some of the medication used to treat these side effects can sometimes worsen the chronic fatigue.
- Doctors should recommend patients to see a mental health professional when dealing with psychological conditions.
4. Dizziness and Lightheadedness
For those that have chronic fatigue syndrome, standing or sitting upright might bring on dizziness or lightheadedness. Here’s what the CDC recommends in this case.
- If you experience blurred vision, weakness or that your heart is beating too fast, the doctor should check heart rate and blood pressure. It might also be prudent to see a specialist such as a neurologist or a cardiologist to determine whether you have a heart or blood vessel disease.
- Doctors might suggest drinking more fluids or taking in more salt. If the symptoms don’t improve, then it’s recommended that prescription medication can be considered.
5. Memory and Concentration Problems
For people with chronic fatigue syndrome who are experiencing memory and concentration problems, the CDC recommends things that can assist with memory. Patients should consider using organizers and reminders such as alerts on phones and alarms where applicable.
6. Other Strategies
- Don’t over do it: Don’t try to push yourself beyond what you would normally attempt to do. That will lead to a crash. This is generally known as a push-and-crash cycle. It could potentially make things worse and lead to worsening symptoms. Rather than do that, find ways to make things simpler. Simply your activities. Sit down while you fold your laundry. Take frequent breaks throughout the day. And if you’re faced with a big task, then break it out into smaller steps.
- Locate a good therapist: Find someone who can help you with managing or coping with your illness. For example, if your chronic fatigue is adversely impacting your relationships or anything that you do throughout the day, a therapist might be able to help you cope or deal with those challenges.
- Balance out your diet: Diet is extremely important for your overall health. It’s also especially important when you’re dealing with an illness like CFS. Eat healthy, raw, plant-based foods.
- Take supplements: If you’re lacking specific nutrients in your system or vitamins, then you should talk to your doctor about taking supplements. However, you have to consider any supplement’s potential interaction with any prescribed medication that you might be taking. If you do take any supplements, ensure that your doctor does some follow-up treatments and planning to check the effects of those supplements on your overall health.
- Other therapies: Take up activities if possible such as yoga, meditation and gentle massages. Do deep-breathing exercises if possible. You can also do things like Tai Chi, which might help to increase your overall energy levels. It might also assist you in decreasing your pain. Other alternative therapies such as water therapies, which help to alleviate pains, might help with your overall health and mood.