Risk Factors Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, affects over 1 million people in the United States, although it is estimated that only 20% of sufferers are actually diagnosed. It is a very mysterious disease with an assortment of symptoms and limited treatment options.
What Does CFS Feel Like?
Well, as you can probably derive from the name, people with CFS are chronically fatigued, or always tired. Sleep is rarely refreshing, leaving them feeling consistently "run-down."
I'm Tired All the Time; Maybe I Have CFS
Actually, excessive fatigue isn't the only symptom of CFS. In fact, in order to be diagnosed with the condition, you must meet the following two criteria:
1)Experience chronic fatigue for 6 months or longer with no other determinable cause
2)Have four of the following symptoms simultaneously for 6 months or longer: pain in multiple joints without swelling or redness, markedly impaired short-term memory or concentration, tender lymph nodes, sore throat, muscle pain, headaches, unrefreshing sleep, or post-exertional fatigue lasting longer than 24 hours. The most common of these eight other symptoms is impaired cognitive ability, such as short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating. And while the previously mentioned symptoms are required for a CFS diagnosis, other symptoms have also been recorded in CFS patients, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and tingling sensations.
What Causes CFS?
That's the big question. Nobody really knows what causes CFS. While there are some things that provoke symptoms in CFS patients such as stress, excessive exercise, and lack of sleep, there's no definite cause for its development. One debated cause is previous viral infection, most often with Chlamydia pneumoniae (which causes pneumonia) or Epstein Barr Virus (which causes mononucleosis or "mono"). However there is no "cause-and-effect" with viral infection and CFS, since not all people with EBV develop CFS and not all those with CFS have been infected with EBV.
What Can I Do to Prevent CFS?
Nothing, really; since no one knows what causes the disease, there's no way to know how to avoid developing it. There are no physical or laboratory tests to determine the presence of CFS in a patient. All you can do is pay attention to your health, do your research, and seek medical help when you think you need it.
Can CFS Be Treated?
Somewhat; with no known cause, treatment is usually centered on treating symptoms and restoring (or at least, improving) function. As with most illnesses, there are two categories of treatment: medication and self-care. Self-care: Taking care of yourself at home is very important in the management of CFS. Things like dehydration and an unhealthy diet can cause fatigue, compounding the effects of CFS. A complete lack of exercise and too much stress can also cause fatigue. If you suffer from CFS, be sure to avoid these unnecessary causes of fatigue by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising moderately on a regular basis, and reducing stress through meditation or by surrounding yourself with friends and family.
Photo Credit: Dawn Ashley