Chronic Fatigue: What is it?

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a neurological illness involving a group of debilitating medical conditions that includes persistent fatigue and post-exertion malaise. It may be caused suddenly by a viral infection or trauma, but in some cases it may take years to develop.

CFS is a spectrum with many subtypes of the illness existing within the spectrum, meaning that two people with CFS can potentially have completely different issues and symptoms.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

While CFS has a large range of symptoms (not all of which affect every individual with the illness), the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has established three criteria which they recommend be fulfilled for an individual to be diagnose with CFS. These are:

  1. A new onset of severe fatigue for six consecutive months or more, which is not caused by exertion, is not relieved or lessened by rest, and is not caused by pre-existing medical conditions
  2. The aforementioned fatigue results in a notable drop in activity levels
  3. At least four of the following symptoms lasting six months or longer

Impaired memory or concentration
Post-exertional malaise, where physical or mental exertions bring on “extreme, prolonged exhaustion and sickness”
Unrefreshing sleep
Muscle pain
Pain in multiple joints
Headaches of a new kind or greater severity
Sore throat, frequent or recurring
Tender lymph nodes

What can you do?

Most importantly, visit your medical specialist for diagnosis and advice. It?s important to realise that while many people do not fully recover from CFS, even with treatment, individuals who receive treatment early on tend to get more positive results. However due to the broad and vague nature of the illness, there isn?t a universal treatment plan for CFS, as each individual will have different symptoms and problems. It?s important to have a supportive group of family, friends and colleagues – as well as medical professionals – who understand the seriousness of CFS, as this can improve chances of recovery.

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