Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disorder characterized by severe fatigue or exhaustion that doesn't go away with rest and can't be explained by an underlying medical condition.
CFS can also be described 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.
Given that no one cause has been identified, and because numerous other conditions generate similar symptoms, CFS can be hard to diagnose.
There are no tests for CFS. Your physician will have to eliminate other reasons for your fatigue when determining a diagnosis.
While CFS was previously a controversial diagnosis, it's now 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 relieve symptoms.
Here's what you need to understand about CFS, including symptoms, treatment options, and outlook.
What causes CFS?
The cause of CFS is not known. Researchers hypothesize that contributing factors might include:
It's also possible that some individuals are genetically predisposed to develop CFS.
Though CFS can in some cases develop after a viral infection, no specific kind of infection has been identified to cause 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 might be the end stage of multiple different conditions, rather than one specific disorder.
In fact, approximately 1 in 10 people with EBV, Ross River virus, or Coxiella burnetii infection will develop a condition that meets 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.
Individuals with CFS can also sometimes have abnormal hormone levels. Physicians haven't yet concluded whether this is significant, either.
What are the symptoms of CFS?
Symptoms of CFS differ 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 a minimum of 6 months. It must not be curable with bed rest.
You will also experience extreme fatigue after physical or mental activities, which is called post-exertional malaise (PEM). This can last for more than 24 hours after the task.
CFS can also introduce sleep problems, such as:
Additionally, you might also experience:
Physical symptoms of CFS may include:
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. However, 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 difficult 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 occurs 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 tests to screen for CFS. Its symptoms are similar to several other conditions. Many people with CFS don't "look sick," so doctors may not realize that they indeed have a health condition.
In order to get a CFS diagnosis, your doctor will eliminate other potential 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 potential reasons for your fatigue is a vital part of the diagnosis procedure. Some disorders with symptoms that resemble those of CFS include:
The side effects of certain drugs, such as antihistamines and alcohol, can mimic symptoms of CFS as well.
Because of the similarities between symptoms of CFS and many other conditions, it's important to not self-diagnose. Consult with your physician about your symptoms. They can work with you to get relief.
How is CFS treated?
There's currently no specific cure for CFS.
Everyone has different symptoms and thus might require different kinds of treatment to manage the condition and alleviate their symptoms.
Treatments consist of:
Most individuals with CFS will improve over time, especially with treatment, although some people do not make a full recovery.
It's also likely there will be periods when your symptoms improve or worsen.
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 La Mesa, California, please visit our website at MarkStengler.com or give us a call at (760) 274-2377.