What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? | CFS Health

M.E/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is very different from every day fatigue. When a person is experiencing normal fatigue they will feel worn out, drained and tired. But this eventually goes away with rest.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is an illness that affects a person’s nervous system (commonly called a ‘neurological illness’).  

The term ‘myalgic encephalomyelitis’ means pain in the muscles, and inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. ME/CFS is a complex illness and we do not know the cause. For some people, the condition may be triggered suddenly by a viral infection, toxic exposure, anaesthetic, immunisation, gastroenteritis or trauma. In other people, ME/CFS may develop slowly over months or years.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is stronger and lasts for much longer and cannot be cured by simply getting more sleep and resting up. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome leaves its sufferers exhausted after even the smallest activities. Even walking around the block may be enough to make a chronic fatigue patient bedridden. Often people with chronic fatigue were once fit and active. So finding even small tasks so draining becomes frustrating and aggravating and often makes the person feel helpless and depressed.

It differs from normal fatigue in two fundamental areas: severity and time. It is more severe in that it actually disables the sufferer and it is more prolonged in that it lasts for more than 6 months, often in many cases, years on end if they don’t get on top of their health.

Chronic fatigue is an unusual disease and one that doctors do not yet fully understand. Symptoms, causes and recovery processes often differ from person to person, however there are some stable facts and consistent experiences for most, if not all, suffers.

Definition and Symptoms of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

In 1994, a panel created by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came up with a definition for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which has since become widely accepted as the basic model for diagnosing the disorder.

According to them the main feature of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is constant and reoccurring fatigue, which displays the following features:

  • Lasts for 6 months or more
  • Is not caused and accompanied by another medical condition
  • Is not due to continuous exertion
  • Is not relieved by rest
  • Disrupts the patients normal life and stops them from functioning

On top of feeling overwhelming fatigue and tiredness the CDC decided that the patient must also present at least four of the following symptoms for four months or longer:

  • Sore throat
  • Bad memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sore lymph nodes in the neck or under the arms
  • Muscle aches and pain (medically called myalgia)
  • Joint pain (medically called arthralgia)
  • Inability to get refreshing sleep
  • Headaches
  • Feeling of bodily discomfort (medically called malaise) after exertion. Also known as post exertion malaise.

Other symptoms include:

  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Sore eyes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscular pain and aches
  • Sore throat
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • De-conditioned muscle
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to adapt to weather/temperature changes
  • Sensitivity around food, smell, light, sound and medication.
  • And many more

 Causes of CFS

Scientists and doctors are still unsure of what actually causes CFS. The CDC suggests that it is likely that CFS has multiple triggers some of which include:

  • Infections
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Very low blood pressure which can cause fainting
  • A deficiency of nutrients
  • Physical and Emotional Stress which targets the HPA axis in the brain; the
  • axis where the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands interact.

 Diagnosis of CFS

Because there is no medical way to actually diagnose CFS, no brain scan or blood test of any other type of lab test, it is a diagnosis that can only be made once every other possible illness has been ruled out.

Because there is no medical way to actually diagnose CFS, no brain scan or blood test of any other type of lab test, it is a diagnosis that can only be made once every other possible illness has been ruled out. Because of this the doctor must take an extremely detailed patient history and conduct a thorough physical and mental health exam. After this a series of lab tests must be done to rule out any other possible causes of the symptoms the patient is displaying. Then, if the patient displays 4 of the 8 symptoms of CFS, they should be diagnosed and treated for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Make sure you consult your local GP and look for a specialist who has a good understanding of M.E/CFS for initial diagnosis.

 Managing CFS

Managing Chronic Fatigue is as complicated and hard to understand as the disease itself. There is no miracle cure, no drug, and no overnight quick fix.

Having experienced chronic fatigue syndrome and over coming it we know that it is possible for patients to regain control of their health and feel better! Managing and dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome can be a slow process which requires patience and commitment. Working on the five health aspects of sleep, nutrition, restorative movement exercise, mindset and stress and anxiety management and retraining the body and brain to work at a more functional level can improve ones quality of life and can have a positive effect on your overall health and wellbeing.