Common Medical Conditions

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Written by
Dr. K Sneha
and medically reviewed by Dr Sagar Makode

14 Aug 2019  -  4 min read



Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is diagnosed when a person feels extremely tired without any apparent underlying health condition. Read the article to know more.

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), otherwise called systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is when a person feels extremely tired without any explainable cause or underlying medical condition. This condition worsens with physical or mental activity and does not get better with rest.

The cause of this condition is still not known, but it is believed to be caused by viral infections or too much mental stress. This condition can be triggered by many factors. There is also no specific diagnostic test for this condition, and tests are done to rule out all other possible causes before making a diagnosis. Treatment aims at providing symptomatic relief. CFS is primarily a disorder of young to middle-aged adults. It is about twice as common in women than in men.

What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The signs and symptoms of CFS are different based on the person affected and the severity of the condition. CFS is characterized by symptoms of at least six months' duration that often starts suddenly (typically with an infectious-like illness), but can start more gradually, characterized by fatigue. The symptoms include:

In some cases, after a period of symptoms, CFS can go into remission, and these symptoms return after a while. It is difficult to manage such cases.

What Are the Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The exact cause is still not known, but CFS is believed to be caused due to:

  • Viral infections - Most people develop this condition after a viral infection. So, it is said that some viruses like Epstein-Barr virus and human herpesvirus might trigger it.

  • Immunocompromised states - As patients with chronic fatigue syndrome tend to have a weakened immune system, it is believed to be a cause.

  • Hormonal problems - Some patients have abnormal levels of hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary glands, and adrenal glands.

What Are the Risk Factors of CFS?

The risk factors are:

  • People between 40 and 50 years of age.

  • Women are more susceptible than men.

  • Genetic factors.

  • Stress.

  • Allergies.

  • Environmental factors.

What Are the Complications of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Some of the complications are:

  • Depression.

  • Emotional and social isolation.

  • Affects work.

How Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosed?

As there is no single diagnostic test, the doctor might conduct many tests to rule out other conditions that can result in the same symptoms. You might need to get the following tests done:

  • Sleep study - CFS can cause sleep problems, so to rule out other causes like obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia, a sleep study is done.

  • Blood test - To rule out other medical conditions like anemia, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

  • Heart and lung tests - Exercise stress test is done to see how well your heart and lungs are functioning.

  • Psychological screening - To rule out mental health problems like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Conditions that can cause the same symptoms are mononucleosis, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, obesity, sleep problems, and hypothyroidism.

How Is CFS Treated?

Treatment is done only to relieve symptoms, as there is no cure for CFS. The treatment options are:

  • Medications - Antidepressants for people who are suffering from depression. It can help improve sleep and relieve pain.

  • Cognitive training - A counselor will give you better ways to perform daily activities without aggravating your symptoms. This will help you lead a reasonably normal life.

  • Graded exercise - A physical therapist will teach you stretching and other exercises to prevent it from triggering pain and tiredness.

  • Allergy shots - Regular allergy shots prevents any allergy from triggering CFS.

  • Alternative therapy - Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, tai chi, and massages can help relieve pain.

What Are the Home Remedies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Some of the following home remedies and lifestyle changes might help reduce your symptoms:

  • Reduce the intake of caffeine, to sleep better.

  • Follow proper sleep hygiene.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Do not take a nap during the day.

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.

As we do not know much about this illness, it is difficult to treat this condition. Most patients end up making lifestyle changes and learn to live with the symptoms. This results in depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Talking to a psychologist or joining a support group has found to be highly beneficial. To know more about ways to manage this condition, consult a doctor online now.

Last reviewed at:
14 Aug 2019  -  4 min read



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