CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disorder characterized by severe fatigue or tiredness that does not go away with sleep and can not 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 completely understood yet. Some theories include viral infection, psychological stress, or a combination of factors.

Since no one cause has been identified, and because several other conditions generate similar symptoms, CFS can be hard 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 typical among women in their 40s and 50s. There’s currently no cure, but treatment can alleviate symptoms.

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

What causes CFS?

The source of CFS is unknown. Researchers speculate that contributing factors may include:

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

Though CFS can sometimes develop after a viral infection, no single kind of infection has been found to cause CFS. Some viral infections that have been studied in connection with CFS include those caused by:

Infections caused by bacteria, including Coxiella burnetii and Mycoplasma pneumonia, have also been researched in connection with CFS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that CFS might be the end stage of multiple various conditions, instead of one particular disorder.

In fact, about 1 in 10 people with EBV, Ross River virus, or Coxiella burnetii infection will develop a condition that fulfills the requirements for a CFS diagnosis.

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

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

People with CFS can also sometimes have unusual hormone levels. Doctors haven’t yet concluded whether this is significant, either.

What are the symptoms of CFS?

Symptoms of CFS vary based on the individual and the severity of the condition.

The most common 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 usual everyday activities with fatigue needs to last for at least 6 months. It must not be curable with bed rest.

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

CFS can also present sleep problems, such as:

Physical symptoms of CFS might consist of:

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

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

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

How is CFS diagnosed?

CFS is a very challenging condition to diagnose.

According to the Institute of Medicine, as of 2015, CFS develops in about 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 individuals with CFS do not “look sick,” so doctors may not realize that they actually have a health problem.

In order to receive a CFS diagnosis, your doctor will rule out other possible causes and review 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. Talk to your physician regarding your symptoms. They can work with you to get relief.

How is CFS treated?

There’s currently no specific cure for CFS.

Each individual has different symptoms and thus may need different types of treatment to manage the disorder and relieve their symptoms.

Treatments include:

Most people with CFS will improve over time, especially with treatment, although some people do not make a complete recovery.

It’s also likely that there will be periods when your symptoms get better or worsen.

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

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