Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Symptoms
Very concerned about all of the symptoms she was experiencing, Rhonda kept her appointment to see her doctor. When she described her symptoms to her doctor, he was fairly certain that Rhonda had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her symptoms had been ongoing for the past six months, a red flag for the condition. Through a series of tests to eliminate other diseases, Rhonda's doctor determined that she did indeed have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Rhonda, in her mid-forties, thought she had caught a flu bug about six months prior to her doctor's visit. The problem was that it never went away. Rhonda also described her constant sore throat, her memory loss, her inability to sleep well at night, her severe headaches, and the swollen lymph nodes in her neck. Those symptoms, combined with the constant fatigue, were what convinced the doctor that she probably had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS. According to the International Chronic Fatigue Study Group, the standard for diagnosing CFS is unexplainable persistent fatigue lasting for six months or more plus four of the eight primary symptoms. These eight are the following:
- Impairment in memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Painful and slightly enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle soreness
- Pain in multiple joints
- Headaches of a new type, pattern or severity
- Sleep that does not refresh
- Exhaustion lasting more than twenty-four hours after physical or mental exertion
Many people with CFS also experience other symptoms than the eight previously listed. Not all people with CFS have these symptoms, but it is possible for them to experience some of these. These would include abdominal pain, new allergies, bloating, nausea, chronic cough, diarrhea, balance difficulties, dry mouth, psychological issues, earaches, jaw pain, chest pains, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, chills, tingling sensations, morning stiffness, eye difficulties and weight loss or gain.
Risk Factors for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Although anyone can contract Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rhonda fit right into the pattern of those most affected. CFS affects women four times more than men, but that may be simply because more women report their symptoms to their doctors than men do. CFS most commonly affects those in their forties and fifties. Because the cause of the condition is unknown, it is difficult to determine more specific risk factors.
In addition to the symptoms previously mentioned, Rhonda and her doctor will need to monitor for other complications. These would include depression, either related to the symptoms or the diagnosis; lack of social interaction due to fatigue; side effects of medication treatments; side effects because of the patient's lack of activity; missing work; and restrictions in lifestyle.
Easing the Symptoms
Research has shown that any delays in diagnosis or treatment seem to cause poorer long-term outcomes. The longer a person has the condition before getting help, the more difficult the course of the condition. Each CFS patient needs to work with her doctor to find the best way to ease her symptoms. Natural remedies, some carefully monitored physical exercise, some medication, and some lifestyle changes-reducing stress, being careful to not overdo, and dietary restrictions-have been found to help, but the key is to find what works for each patient.
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