Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, and More

CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

Telemedicine Department

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – also referred to as Myalgic encephalomyelitis. It is defined as chronic Fatigue or tiredness in the absence of any other medical diagnosis. It is common among women between the age of 20–40 years. 

Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Viruses: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can occur after a certain viral illness like Glandular fever caused by Epstein Barr virus, Covid-19 caused by SARS CoV-2 virus.

Bacterial infection: Certain bacteria cause lung infection and infection of the Intestines.

Weakened immune system: Immune dysfunction is also a cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Any change in a person’s immunity can predispose them to develop this syndrome. 

Stress: Psychological stress plays an important role in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. An imbalance in the Serotonin level and the Cortisol level can trigger an exacerbation of this disease.

Hormonal imbalance: Abnormal levels of certain hormones that are produced by endocrine glands such as the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and adrenal glands can cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Genetic: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is known to have a genetic predisposition but is not inherited in any predictable pattern. 

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • Muscle pain
  • General tiredness or Fatigue
  • Frequent headaches
  • Multiple joint pain
  • Frequent sore throat
  • Giddiness, especially while sitting up from a lying down position or standing up from a sitting position 
  • Difficulty in concentration, memory impairment
  • Exhaustion after physical activity
  • Tender and swollen lymph nodes in the areas of neck and armpits

When to seek medical help?

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be mild, moderate or severe. It is advisable to seek medical help if the symptoms mentioned above persist beyond a few weeks. The doctor will need to perform a series of tests to exclude other conditions before coming to a conclusion about the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Balancing daily activities

Moderate or paced lifestyle to avoid having extreme Fatigue.

Exercise and addressing post-exertional malaise

Individuals who exercise regularly show fewer symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Aerobics, Pilates, Zumba, tai-chi and yoga are good examples of physical activity for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Nutrition

Maintain a healthy, balanced diet by avoiding junk food. Eat spinach and high-fibre foods, such as whole-grain bread, oats and quinoa. Avoid food rich in refined carbohydrates, such as flour and white sugar. Avoid fatty foods.

Memory aids

Keeping notes, To-do lists, journaling and calendars are helpful. Solving puzzles and crosswords can also improve cognition.

Sleep

Sleep early when exhausted. Short naps during the day to avoid such feelings. Avoid napping during the day if it’s hurting your ability to sleep at night. Create a sleep routine. Make a practice of going to bed at the same time every night and aim to wake up around the same time every day.

Medications

Carnitine, Coenzyme Q10, Magnesium, Melatonin, Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and Ribose are supplements that are beneficial for individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. During periods of intense muscle pain, over-the-counter analgesics can be used.

Prevention of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • Regular exercise and physical activity such as playing sports can also prevent the development of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • Be a part of a social group or start a new hobby.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods. Restrict the intake of simple carbohydrates such as white bread, cakes, French fries, and burgers and saturated fats like butter, clarified butter and red meat. 
  • Stay hydrated. Aim at drinking 8 glasses of water per day. Keep a food and symptom Journal to know if any particular food is a trigger and to avoid it in the future. 
  • Limit your caffeine intake.
  • Try smaller, more frequent meals in case of indigestion or bloating.
  • Pay attention to the amount of simple carbohydrates and saturated fats eaten per day.

Conclusion

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is now a recognised medical condition that requires a multi-disciplinary approach, including pain management, physiotherapy, lifestyle and diet changes and stress management.

FAQs

What Chronic Fatigue Syndrome feels like?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is said to be a condition in which a person has chronic tiredness, Fatigue, Difficulty in performing simple day-to-day tasks along with chronic muscle pain.

How do you cure Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The condition cannot be cured, but can be managed and controlled with a multi-disciplinary approach. 

What causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can occur after a viral or bacterial infection, stress, weakened immune system, hormone imbalance and in individuals with a genetic predisposition.

How do they test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

In case you are suffering from symptoms suggestive of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you must seek medical help. A doctor will suggest some investigations to rule out other causes such as Anaemia, thyroid disorder, cardiac conditions, other endocrinology problems, electrolytes or bone mineral density-related issues before coming to a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Should you exercise if you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Exercise is important to manage Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The exercise should be gradual, and the intensity should be slowly and carefully increased. It is important to seek professional help to start the physical activity with a physiotherapist to avoid extreme fatigue or post-exertional fatigue.

What is the best treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

There is no single treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is managed by a multi-disciplinary approach.

Who is most likely to get CFS?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome occurs at any age, including children. But the incidence is common in women between the ages of 20 to 40.

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