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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Cause Unknown, Diagnosis Difficult

By — One of many Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) blogs on

Life itself can be hectic and exhausting. There are responsibilities to families, kids, work, and many people wish that the world would just slow down for a few hours. People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have the same demands made on them, and there are times when they cannot physically keep the pace. One of the main problems with Chronic Fatigue is that the cause is unknown, making the diagnosis difficult.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Defined

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome appears to be more of a listing of symptoms than an actual condition. In 1994, the Centers of Disease Control gathered an international panel of experts to make a clinical working definition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and their definition is based on two criteria. First, the patient would have had to have had chronic fatigue lasting six months or longer. Second, the patient would have to have had four of the following eight possible primary symptoms . These symptoms are extreme exhaustion after physical or mental exertion lasting longer than twenty-four hours, muscle pain, unexplained joint pain, difficulty with concentration or memory, sore throat, tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit area, non-restful sleep, and headaches of a new type, pattern or severity.

Risk Factors for CFS

CFS affects men, women and children, but women seem to be affected two to four times more than men. No one seems to understand why this would be-it could be as simple as women reporting it more than men do. It also is more common to people in their forties and fifties. With the cause still unknown, it is difficult for the researchers to isolate more specific risk factors.

The Cause is Unknown

Although much research has been done on the cause of CFS, it still eludes the researchers. Some people seem to have CFS following a viral illness, while for some it follows a period of stress. Still others seem to have no known starting point for the condition.

Possible Causes

Some of the causes being researched are depression, allergies, anemia, low blood sugar, chronic low blood pressure, hormone level changes in the body, immune system irregularities, and viral infections . None of these have been eliminated as causes, but none have been identified either. It seems that there could be several starting points with one ending point, with that point being CFS.

Diagnosis Difficult

With no known cause for the condition, there is great difficulty in developing tests to identify CFS. As of right now, a diagnosis of CFS means that many other possible diseases and conditions have been eliminated as a cause for the symptoms. Doctors have to exclude conditions like sleep apnea, alcohol or substance abuse, depression, obesity, and possibly a relapse of a previously identified disease such as cancer. No cause for CFS also means that doctors cannot prescribe one medication or therapy that would be helpful for all patients-they just have to work with the patients to develop a plan that is most helpful to each one. It is really just symptom management. Most patients learn to slow down their activities, exercise, and manage stress as a common treatment, and these will help all CFS patients to some degree


Photo Credit: My Edible Advice

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