Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disabling disease characterized by severe overwhelming fatigue that cannot be explained by any underlying medical condition.  Individuals have four or more of the following symptoms: post-exertional fatigue (“malaise”) characterized by the loss of both physical and mental stamina; unrefreshing sleep; lack of cognitive focus (“brain fog”); chronic joint/muscle pains and aches; and headaches of new onset or severity, swollen glands and sore throat.

Many individuals also develop new allergies or have a change in the status of old ones.  Fatigue usually worsens with physical and/or mental activity but does not improve with rest. Symptoms can change daily and are unpredictable from day to day, week to week.

Autonomic symptoms generally include orthostatic intolerance in which a change from the supine position to an upright (standing or sitting) position can result in the student becoming light-headed; having blood pool in the feet; and/or passing out.  Dizziness, light-headedness and extreme pallor are also characteristic in many patients with CFS.  Endocrine symptoms also include heat and/or cold intolerance.

Neurological and cognitive symptoms often labeled ‘brain fog’ include confusion, difficulty with concentration and processing information, short-term memory issues and impaired word retrieval. All symptoms can be exacerbated by mental and/or physical stress or exertion and include a loss of adaptability and tolerance for stress.  Many individuals also have a hypersensitivity to light and/or noise.

CFS is difficult to diagnose because it is an exclusionary illness, with no single test to confirm the diagnosis. Although there is no known cause of CFS, there is considerable ongoing research. Other viruses associated with CFS include Epstein-Barr, HHV-6, cytomegalovirus,and the Ross River virus. However, individuals can also have a gradual onset of CFS.

There is no single treatment for CFS.  As a result, treatment is for symptoms only, and that differs from individual to individual.  Treatment regimens currently being used include medications to treat orthostatic intolerance (florinef, midodrine, beta-blockers, etc.); beta-blockers; anti-virals (valgancyclovir); amino acids (melatonin); and nutrition-based therapies.  Some physicians also use light therapy to restore natural diurnal rhythms.

 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Links -

  • The CFIDS Association of America’s (http://www.cfids.org/default.asp) strategy is to stimulate research aimed at the early detection, objective diagnosis and effective treatment of CFS through expanded public, private and commercial investment.
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/) focuses on providing general information, publications, news and highlights of CFS.
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