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A Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, sometimes called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a newer illness with a lot of buzz, is characterized by extreme fatigue that doesn't go away with rest. This exhaustion interferes with completion of daily activities. This mysterious disease is more likely to affect women, and usually affects people in their 40s and 50s.  

Unfortunately there is no diagnostic test, and a diagnosis is a process of elimination because all other illnesses need to be ruled out. Doctors will diagnose the syndrome when you have been suffering fatigue and the associated symptoms (listed below) for longer than 6 months. While CFS is not a progressive disease, it has a cyclical nature, with periods of wellness and relapses.

Why do people get CFS?

CFS is not entirely understood, and at present the causes are speculated in the medical profession. Sufferers have been reporting the phenomenon for several decades, and doctors have found that the disease often follows having a viral infection, such as Epstein-Barr and Mononucleosis. Research has also shown that there is a link between CFS and inflammation of the nerve cells of the brain, as well as problems in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain responsible for the internal body's balance and hormone production.


What Are the Symptoms?

The foremost symptom is persistent fatigue, not resolved with sleep. Other symptoms include loss of memory or concentration, enlarged lymph nodes, and sleep problems. Another notable problem is recurring pain in the throat or muscles, headaches and multi-joint pain that doesn't swell or redden. Sufferers also experience exhaustion and feel unwell after being physically, or mental active and this feeling can last more than 24 hours.

Sometimes sufferers might report being sensitive to light or sound, or experience a disoriented or confused state, and exhibit slow thinking. Other times they might have muscle weakness or struggle with muscle coordination.  CFS is commonly accompanied by depression, which often exacerbates the CFS symptoms.


Care & Treatment

CFS has no cure and treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and maintaining emotional health. It is recommended that you work with a health care team to create an individualized coping strategy. This can include being prescribed medications for depression, pains and aches, therapies, and general lifestyle changes.

Graded Exercises Therapy

With the aid of a certified specialist, this therapy aims to gradually increase one's ability to do physical activities for longer stretches of time, without tiring you out. Usually GET includes stretching and aerobic exercises, balanced with rest periods.


Cognitive Behavior Therapy

This talking therapy focuses on helping you manage the disease by changing the way you think and behave. CBT looks to for positive, practical ways to improve your state of mind and is  intended to help you accept your diagnosis. It also focuses on challenging negative thoughts that might exaggerate symptoms, and aims to empower you with a sense of control.

Alternative Therapies

Some complementary therapies help relieve pain and stress associated with CFS. Successful therapies reported include hydrotherapy, stretching therapy, massage, acupuncture, toing exercises, or relaxation techniques.

Changes to Diet

Many CFS patients have found their symptoms reduced by cutting out sugar, caffeine and alcohol in their diets, and both eating healthy balance improves quality of life considerably.

Activity Management and Regular Bedtime

Some simple lifestyle changes include monitoring the amount of activities you participate in and your general pacing, as not to deplete your limited energy levels. Establishing a regular bedtime is highly recommended, and it needs to feature consistent, and healthy habits. Bedtime should be preceded by light exercise and stretching completed several hours before retiring to bed.

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