Worried if you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? 7 FAQs answered by a doctor
Have you been feeling lethargic for a prolonged time without being able to answer why? Maybe it’s time you know about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and go for proper diagnosis and treatment to feel better.
Here, Dr Shelly Singh, Senior Gynaecologist, Rosewalk Hospital, answers some frequently asked questions around CFS.
1. What is chronic fatigue syndrome( CFS)?
Chronic fatigue Syndrome is defined as a complex disorder characterised by a feeling of being constantly fatigued for more than 6 months once other medical conditions that cause fatigue are ruled out. It is also called Myelo Encephalomyelitis (ME) or in the current nomenclature, Systemic Exertional Intolerance Disease (SEID). This fatigue gets worsened on exercise or exertion but does not get better with rest or sleep.
2. What causes CFS?
The causative reasons for CFS are not clearly known. It may be genetic, may run in families and some experts believe it may come about after viral infections or psychological stress. Some believe a combination of large number of causes may trigger it. We have also been hearing about it post Covid-19 infections though the causal risk is not clearly determined.
3. What are the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Remember, these symptoms vary from person to person and even in the same patient, it varies from day to day. Some days are better than the other while some are worse.
The common symptoms of CFS are fatigue, physical or mental stress, difficulty in sleeping, not feeling fresh or energetic even on waking up , memory issues and brain fogging, headaches, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and arm pits ,muscle and joint pains. There are difficulties in focus and also dizziness while getting up from lying down or sitting position.
Also remember that diseases which cause similar symptoms like anaemia, diabetes and thyroid diseases are ruled out by the doctor before labelling you as CFS. Some diseases like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, sleep disorders may coexist with CFS .
4. What could be possible triggers?
Viral infections, psychological stresses, immunological issues and hormone abnormalities like those of the adrenal, pituitary and hypothalamus may trigger the disorder. However, their significance is still unclear.
5. Who are people at risk?
Women, more than men and middle-aged people in the age group of 40-60 or young adults and teenagers, may be at risk.
6. When should you report it to a doctor?
If the symptoms have lasted for more than 6 months and they’ve started affecting your lifestyle, causing work absence, depression or social alienation, please meet a doctor. Symptoms can definitely be toned down with interventions like lifestyle modifications and some medications along with counselling.
Diagnosis is made after taking a complete history , examination and investigations which rule out other medical or psychological conditions which may mimic CFS
7. What is the treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The symptoms which are the most disabling are addressed first. For instance, if the major symptoms are depression, mild antidepressants may be given. If there are headaches or bone and joint pains mild painkillers may be needed.
For myalgias, some prescription medications to treat the same may be warranted.
Exercise regimes tailored to your body, counselling, addressing sleep deprivation are also some ways of reducing the intensity of symptoms. Some patients also do well with support groups while some take refuge in alternate therapy .
See what causes the maximum disruption and work towards countering that first. Seek support of your family and friends.