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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

4 min read


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is diagnosed when a person feels extremely tired without any underlying health condition.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode

Published At August 14, 2019
Reviewed AtJanuary 19, 2024

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 improve 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. Many factors can contribute to an increase in the risk of the condition. However, several tests can help in diagnosing the condition. Also, the treatment helps in reducing the symptoms. The condition is twice as common in women than in men due to lack of sleep, dehydration, a sedentary lifestyle, iron deficiency (anemia), and poor dietary habits, leading to a lack of energy throughout the day.

Sudden Crashing Fatigue: It occurs in females during the menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy. It causes anxiety, irritability in menopause, frequent hunger, lack of good sleep, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, emotional stress, and lethargy.

What Are the Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The exact cause is still not known, but CFS is believed to be caused by the following factors:

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

  • Genetic Factors - Some studies claim that genetic variation can cause the condition.

  • Psychological Factors - Factors such as trauma and stress can influence the condition.

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 start suddenly (typically with an infectious-like illness), but can start more gradually, characterized by fatigue.

The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome are as follows:

  • Severe tiredness and fatigue that does not get better with rest.

  • Post-exertional fatigue - A prolonged exacerbation of symptoms after physical, mental, or orthostatic exertion or stress.

  • Feeling tired even after a good night’s sleep.

  • Insomnia.

  • Memory problems.

  • Lack of concentration.

  • Headaches.

  • Muscle pain.

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and armpits.

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

What Are the Risk Factors of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The risk factors for chronic fatigue syndrome are as follows:

  • Age: People between 40 and 50 are likelier to develop the condition.

  • Gender: Women are more susceptible than men to getting the condition.

  • Genetic factors.

  • Stress.

  • Allergies.

  • Environmental factors.

What Are the Complications of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Some of the complications of chronic fatigue syndrome are as follows:

  • Depression.

  • Emotional and social isolation.

  • Affects work.

  • Reduced quality of life.

  • Joint and muscle pain.

  • The problem is memory and concentration.

  • Insomnia.

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.

An individual might need to get the following tests done:

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

  • Blood Test - The doctor may advise blood tests to rule out other medical conditions like anemia, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

  • Heart and Lung Tests - An exercise stress test is done to see how well an individual’s heart and lungs function.

  • 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 (underactive thyroid).

How Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treated?

Treatment is done only to relieve symptoms, as there is no cure for CFS.

The treatment options to relieve symptoms are as follows:

  • Medications - The healthcare provider may prescribe antidepressants for people who are suffering from depression. It can help improve sleep and relieve pain.

  • Cognitive Training - A counselor will give the person better ways to perform daily activities without aggravating her symptoms. This will help them lead a reasonably normal life.

  • Graded Exercise - A physical therapist will teach the person stretching and other exercises to prevent them from triggering pain and tiredness.

  • Allergy Shots - The healthcare provider may advise regular allergy shots to prevent any allergy from triggering CFS.

  • Alternative Therapy - The therapy includes acupuncture, yoga, meditation, tai chi, and massages that can help relieve pain.

  • Dietary Supplements - Antioxidant supplements, such as nicotinamide, adenine dinucleotide (NADH), and co-enzymes, can also help relieve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

What Are the Home Remedies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Some people prefer home remedies to get symptomatic relief.

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

  • An individual should reduce their caffeine intake to sleep better.

  • People should follow proper sleep hygiene.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • An individual should not take a nap during the day.

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

As people do not know much about this illness, it is difficult to treat it. Most patients make lifestyle changes and learn to live with their symptoms. This results in depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Talking to a psychologist or joining a support group is highly beneficial.


Chronic fatigue syndrome is when the person feels tired, along with other symptoms like memory disturbances and fatigue. The condition's causes are viral infections, genetic factors, environmental factors, and immune system dysfunction. The condition affects the individual's physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. People with the condition can have the risk of developing health conditions. Diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome can be challenging. A multidisciplinary approach, including medical management, psychological support, and lifestyle modifications, can manage the condition. Research on the condition is ongoing. The patient with the condition must be monitored closely to manage their symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions


How To Get Rid Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

CFS can be treated with medications for depression, cognitive training, graded exercise, allergy shots, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, tai chi, and massages.


How long does chronic fatigue last?

As the symptoms of CFS are similar to some other health conditions, you will be diagnosed with CFS if your symptoms last for more than 6 months. This illness can last for years and is worse in the first couple of years.


What Is The Best Medication For Chronic Fatigue?

Medicines are used to relieve various symptoms of CFS, as there is no specific treatment. As depression is the most common symptoms, the drugs used are antidepressants like Bupropion and Sertraline.


What Is The Best Vitamin For Fatigue?

Some studies claim that diet and nutrition may help with the symptoms. Taking supplements containing Vitamin D, B6, B12, Lysine, and Glutathione are believed to be useful.


How Can I Treat Chronic Fatigue At Home?

Some of the commonly used home remedies include ginseng, alfalfa, licorice, essential fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). There is no scientific evidence if these home remedies are effective.


What Is A Natural Cure For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Natural cure includes extracts from ginseng, alfalfa, and licorice, supplements containing essential fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). Other alternative treatments include ayurvedic medicines, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and tai chi.


Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome A Mental Illness?

CFS is not a mental illness. But most people with this illness develop depression after some months to years.


How is chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosed?

The doctor will conduct many tests to rule out other conditions that can result in the same symptoms. The tests that you might have to do are sleep study, blood test, heart and lung test, and psychological screening.


Can a child have chronic fatigue syndrome?

Yes, a child can get chronic fatigue syndrome. It can be disabling and affect the child to a great extent. But with proper treatment, most children get better.


Can you get pregnant with chronic fatigue syndrome?

Most women with CFS usually conceive and carry and deliver healthy babies.
Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode
Dr. Sagar Ramesh Makode



chronic fatigue syndrome
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