CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disorder defined by severe fatigue or tiredness that does not go away with rest and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition.

CFS can also be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).

The causes of CFS aren’t fully understood yet. Some theories include viral infection, psychological stress, or a combination of factors.

Given that no one cause has been identified, and because many other conditions produce similar symptoms, CFS can be challenging to diagnose.

There are no tests for CFS. Your doctor will have to eliminate other causes for your fatigue when determining a diagnosis.

While CFS was previously a controversial diagnosis, it’s currently widely accepted as a medical condition.

CFS can impact anyone, though it’s most frequent amongst women in their 40s and 50s. There’s currently no cure, however, treatment can alleviate symptoms.

Here’s what you need to understand about CFS, including symptoms, treatment options, and outlook.

What triggers CFS?

The source of CFS is not known. Researchers speculate that contributing factors may include:

It’s even possible that some individuals are genetically predisposed to develop CFS.

Though CFS can occasionally develop after a viral infection, no specific kind of infection has been identified to trigger CFS. Some viral infections that have been researched in relation to CFS include those caused by:

Infections caused by bacteria, including Coxiella burnetii and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, have also been researched in relation to CFS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that CFS may be the end stage of multiple various conditions, rather than one particular condition.

In fact, approximately 1 in 10 individuals with EBV, Ross River virus, or Coxiella burnetii infection will develop a condition that meets the criteria for a CFS diagnosis.

Additionally, researchers say that those who’ve had severe symptoms with any of these three infections are at a greater risk for later developing CFS.

Individuals with CFS sometimes have weakened immune systems, but doctors don’t know whether this is enough to cause the disorder.

Individuals with CFS can also in some cases have unusual hormone levels. Doctors haven’t yet concluded whether this is significant, either.

What are the symptoms of CFS?

Symptoms of CFS vary according to the individual and the severity of the condition.

The most prevalent symptom is fatigue that’s serious enough to interfere with your everyday activities.

For CFS to be diagnosed, a significantly reduced ability to perform your normal everyday activities with fatigue has to last for at least 6 months. It must not be treatable with bed rest.

You will also experience extreme fatigue after physical or mental tasks, which is referred to as post-exertional malaise (PEM). This can last for more than 24 hours after the task.

CFS can also introduce sleep problems, such as:

In addition, you might also experience:

Physical symptoms of CFS might consist of:

CFS affects some people in cycles, with periods of feeling worse and then better.

Symptoms may sometimes even vanish completely, which is referred to as remission. But, it’s still possible for symptoms to return later, which is referred to as a relapse.

This cycle of remission and relapse can make it challenging to manage your symptoms, but it’s possible.

How is CFS diagnosed?

CFS is a very difficult condition to diagnose.

According to the Institute of Medicine, as of 2015, CFS develops in approximately 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans. It’s estimated, however, that 84 to 91 percent have yet to receive a diagnosis.

There are no medical exams to screen for CFS. Its symptoms resemble many other disorders. Many people with CFS do not “look sick,” so doctors may not realize that they actually have a health problem.

In order to get a CFS diagnosis, your physician will rule out other possible causes and discuss your medical history with you.

They’ll verify that you at least have the core symptoms previously mentioned. They’ll also ask about the duration and severity of your unexplained fatigue.

Ruling out other possible causes of your fatigue is an essential part of the diagnosis process. Some disorders with symptoms that resemble those of CFS include:

The side effects of particular drugs, such as antihistamines and alcohol, can resemble symptoms of CFS as well.

Because of the similarities between symptoms of CFS and several other disorders, it’s important to not self-diagnose. Consult with your doctor about your symptoms. They can work with you to get relief.

How is CFS treated?

There’s presently no specific cure for CFS.

Each person has various symptoms and thus might require different kinds of treatment to manage the condition and relieve their symptoms.

Treatments consist of:

Most individuals with CFS will improve with time, particularly with treatment, although some people do not make a full recovery.

It’s also likely there will be durations when your symptoms improve or worse.

Children and young people with CFS/ME are more likely to recover completely.

For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in Carmel Valley, California, please visit our website at or give us a call at (760) 274-2377