Life is busy. All too often we feel exhausted and pushed to our limits. But when is being tired just that and not something more? Today, thousands suffer from a condition known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Symptoms naturally include fatigue, but Chronic Fatigue Syndrome extends well beyond feeling tired. In order to know what to do and where to turn, you need to know what CFS actually is. Only then will you know if you have symptoms that warrant medical attention.
What Exactly Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Because Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms are fairly nonspecific, doctors have struggled in defining what it actually is. However, a consensus about the syndrome has evolved over time. Today, it is defined by the following set of symptoms:
- Chronic fatigue lasting more that 6 months with impaired ability to function normally
- Lasting discomfort (more than 24 hours) after physically exerting yourself
- Waking up unrefreshed even after getting enough sleep
- Problems with your thinking, memory and/or concentration
If these symptoms are present, without other known causes, then you very well may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
How Did I Get Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
That’s the million-dollar question. Currently, no one knows exactly what causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or its symptoms. Most experts suspect some type of infection could be the cause. In fact, some infections like Infectious Mononucleosis and Lyme Disease can mimic Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms. Women and young to middle-aged adults tend to get it most commonly. But the actual risks factors have yet to be identified. At least for now, the cause for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome remains unknown.
How Do I Know If I Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Symptoms provide the important clues when diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In addition, your examination may suggest common findings seen in patients. However, your doctor will typically perform several blood tests to look for other causes of symptoms. Tests commonly ordered for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms include blood counts, electrolytes, thyroid tests, infection titers, and others. These tests are done to rule out other conditions that may mimic this syndrome. If no other cause is found, and you have classic Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms, then the diagnosis is made.
Can Anything Be Done to Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Yes. Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome do exist. Once diagnosed, blood tests may help guide your treatment. For example, some patients with it have abnormal immune levels related to specific infections. These specific infections might include a virus known as Epstein-Barr or another infection called Chlamydia. Sometimes, medications used to treat these infections can help ease Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms. However, if not present, supportive care is the preferred choice to treat symptoms. Exercise has been shown to help fatigue and improve sleep. Other medications may be used for pain in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When treating your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms, your doctor will outline a specific treatment plan for your specific complaints.
How Can I Avoid Getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
While treatable risk factors for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have not been found, some general steps at prevention may be worthwhile. For example, getting adequate rest, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly is encouraged. These activities are associated with a healthy immune system and may help lower the chances of getting it. Various treatments using vitamins and minerals have been tried for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms without significant success. But this does not mean you shouldn’t strive for a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals. A healthy lifestyle may keep you from developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome before it has a chance to start.
Next Steps and Looking Ahead
Do you think you might be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? If so, you are not alone. But before assuming your symptoms, you should be sure other conditions are not present. Conditions like low thyroid, hormonal imbalances, and even anemia can cause symptoms that mimic Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Even depression syndromes can be present with symptoms of chronic fatigue. Therefore, it is important to have a professional evaluation. Taking this smart approach can assure you get the right help you need. And it can give you the best chance at feeling healthy.