Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

Chronic fatigue syndrome


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a complex disorder, is characterised by severe fatigue lasting at least six months. It can’t be explained completely by any underlying medical condition. Physical or mental activity can make the fatigue worse, while resting doesn’t help.

Other symptoms include:

  • A restless night is not refreshing
  • Memory, focus and concentration problems
  • Moving from sitting or lying down to standing can cause dizziness.

This condition is also known by the acronym myalgic-encephalomyelitis, or ME. It’s sometimes abbreviated to ME/CFS. Systemic exertional intolerance disorder (SEID) is the most recent term.

Although the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown, there are many theories. These theories include viral infections and psychological stress. Experts believe that chronic fatigue syndrome could be caused by a combination or a variety of factors.

A single test is not enough to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. To rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms, you might need several medical tests. Chronic fatigue syndrome is treated by improving the symptoms.


Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can vary from one person to another. The severity of symptoms can also fluctuate from day to day. Some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Larger lymph nodes in your neck and armpits
  • Unexplained joint or muscle pain
  • Moving from sitting or lying down to standing can cause dizziness.
  • Refreshing Sleep
  • Extreme exhaustion following physical or mental exercise

When should you see a doctor?

Fatigue may be a sign of various illnesses such as infection or psychological disorders. If you experience persistent or severe fatigue, it is important to consult your doctor.


Chronic fatigue syndrome is not yet understood. It is possible that some people are born predisposed to the condition, which can then be triggered by a combination or other factors. These are some possible triggers:

  • Viral infections. Researchers are examining whether viral infections could trigger chronic fatigue syndrome. The Epstein-Barr virus and human herpes viruses are two possible suspects. There is no conclusive evidence to support this claim.
  • Immune system problems. Chronic fatigue syndrome patients may have a slight impairment in their immune system, but it is not clear if this is sufficient to cause the condition.
  • Hormonal imbalances. Chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers may also experience an abnormal level of hormones in their blood. These abnormalities are still not understood.
  • Emotional or physical trauma. Some people claim that they suffered an injury, surgery, or significant emotional stress just before their symptoms started.

Risk factors

These factors could increase your chances of developing chronic fatigue syndrome:

  • Age. Although chronic fatigue syndrome can affect anyone at any age, it is most common in young- to middle-aged people.
  • Sex. Chronic fatigue syndrome is more common in women than it is in men. However, this may just be because they are more likely to seek medical attention.


Chronic fatigue syndrome can lead to:

  • Lifestyle restrictions
  • Increased absences from work
  • Social isolation
  • Depression


A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome can’t be confirmed by one test. Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can mimic other health conditions, such as:

  • Sleep disorders. Sleep disorders can cause chronic fatigue. Sleep disorders can be identified by a sleep study.
  • Problems with the body. Fatigue can be a sign of many medical conditions such as diabetes, anemia, and hypothyroidism. For some top suspects, lab tests can be used to test your blood.
  • Mental health problems. Depression and anxiety can also cause fatigue. Talking to a counselor can help you determine which of these conditions is causing your fatigue.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome often have other health issues, such as sleep disorders or irritable bowel syndrome.

Researchers consider fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome to be two different types of the same disease.

Diagnostic criteria

The United States Institute of Medicine has developed guidelines that define fatigue as chronic fatigue syndrome.

  • It is so severe that it affects the ability to participate in pre-illness activities
  • A new or definite onset (not a lifelong).
  • Rest does not significantly alleviate the problem.
  • Physical, mental, or emotional exertion can make it worse

A person must also experience at least one of the following symptoms to meet the criteria of the Institute of Medicine for chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis:

  • Memory, focus, and concentration problems
  • Moving from sitting or lying down to standing can cause dizziness.

These symptoms must last at least six months, and they should be experienced at least half of the time with moderate, substantial, or severe intensity.


Chronic fatigue syndrome is not curable. The goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms. First, address the most severe or debilitating symptoms.


There are some conditions that can be treated with prescription and over-the-counter medication. Examples include:

  • Depression. People with chronic health issues, such as the fatigue syndrome, can also be depressed. It can be easier to deal with chronic fatigue syndrome by treating your depression. Some antidepressants may also be used in low doses to improve sleep quality and reduce pain.
  • Orthostatic intolerance. People with chronic fatigue syndrome, especially adolescents, may feel nauseated or faint when they sit or stand. It may be beneficial to take medication to lower blood pressure and regulate heart rhythms.
  • Pain. Prescription drugs are sometimes available to treat fibromyalgia. Pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine, Cymbalta, amitriptyline and gabapentin are some of these options.


People suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome can benefit from:

  • Counseling. Counseling can be helpful in helping you to cope with chronic illness, improve your family dynamics, or address any limitations at work. You can also use it to manage depression.
  • Sleep problems can be addressed. Other symptoms can be made more difficult by sleep deprivation. Your doctor may suggest that you avoid caffeine or change your bedtime routine. A machine that uses air pressure to blow your nose while you sleep can treat sleep apnea.
  • Exercise. Exercise that is too aggressive can often worsen symptoms. However, it is important to keep the activities you enjoy to avoid deconditioning. Long-term function may be improved by a low intensity exercise program that gradually increases in intensity.

Post-exertional malaise

Chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers may experience a worsening in their symptoms after exerting any mental, physical or emotional effort. This is known as post-exertional fatigue syndrome and can last several days to weeks.

Post-exertional malaise is a condition in which people find it difficult to maintain a healthy balance between rest and activity. It is important to be active but not overdo it.

Keep a journal of your daily activities and symptoms so that you can keep track of how much you are doing. This will help you to avoid overexerting yourself on days that you feel good. You may feel worse later.


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