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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Symptoms, General Information and Treatment News

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2018/10/02

Synopsis: Chronic fatigue syndrome CFS is defined as a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that does not improve with bed rest.

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What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is defined as a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that doesn't improve with bed rest and may worsen with physical or mental activity. Chronic fatigue syndrome is the most common name given to a poorly understood, variably debilitating disorder or disorders of uncertain causation.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. CFS may also be referred to as systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), or by several other terms. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities.

Symptoms of CFS include widespread muscle and joint pain, cognitive difficulties, chronic, often severe mental and physical exhaustion and other characteristic symptoms in a previously healthy and active person. Fatigue is a common symptom in many illnesses, but CFS is a multi-systemic disease and is relatively rare by comparison.

Research confirms that CFS is indeed a physical illness - just one that's not fully understood.

An estimated half a million people in the United States have a CFS-like condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They are seriously impaired, at least a quarter are unemployed or on disability because of CFS. Yet, only about half have consulted a physician for their illness. The earlier a person with CFS receives medical treatment the greater the likelihood that the illness will resolve.

The majority of CFS cases start suddenly, usually accompanied by a "flu-like illness" which is more likely to occur in winter, while a significant proportion of cases begin within several months of severe adverse stress.

For unknown reasons, CFS occurs more often in women than men, and in people in their 40s and 50s.

Patients report critical reductions in levels of physical activity and are as impaired as persons whose fatigue can be explained by another medical or a psychiatric condition.

According to the CDC, studies show that the degree of disability or functional impairment in CFS patients is comparable to that caused by well-known, severe medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, late-stage AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the effects of chemotherapy.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:

Because the symptoms of CFS are so vague and can vary widely from person to person, the CDC developed a detailed case definition in 1994 to help doctors diagnose it. According to that definition, in order to be diagnosed with CFS a person must have both:

Severe, chronic fatigue for at least 6 months or longer that is not alleviated by rest, with other known medical conditions having been excluded by a doctor's diagnosis and includes four or more of the following symptoms:

  • forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating.
  • sore throat.
  • tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit.
  • muscle pain or multi-joint pain without swelling.
  • headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity.
  • un-refreshing sleep and vague feelings of illness or depression after exerting oneself, lasting more than 24 hours following exertion.
  • tiredness that lasts longer than 24 hours.

In addition, any of the above symptoms associated with the fatigue must have occurred for at least 6 or more months in a row. Also, continuous fatigue should have been the first noticeable symptom of illness.

Other symptoms of CFS can include mild fever, blurry vision, chills, night sweats, diarrhea, and fluctuations in appetite and weight.

CFS is a serious illness and poses a dilemma for patients, their families, and health care providers.


Many patients do not fully recover from CFS, even with treatment. Suggested treatments for CFS include;

  • diets,
  • physiotherapy,
  • supplements,
  • anti-depressants,
  • pain killers,
  • pacing or energy management,
  • graded exercise/activity
  • complementary and alternative medicine.

Some management strategies are suggested to reduce the consequences of having CFS, including cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise therapy (GET).[

The success of certain treatments suggests CFS may be perpetuated when patients fixate on a physical cause of illness, their symptoms and when exercise is avoided. Lack of support or reinforcement of illness behavior from social networks can also delay recovery, as can conflict with doctors who insist on psychological causes over a patient's objections.

Chronic fatigue syndrome has eight official symptoms;

  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Un-refreshing sleep
  • Unexplained muscle pain
  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
  • Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
  • Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
  • Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise

Pediatric CFS

CFS is often thought of as a problem in adults, but it also affects children and adolescents. Between 0.2% and 2.3% of children or adolescents suffer from CFS. CFS is more prevalent in adolescents than in younger children. In children, particularly in adolescents, CFS is more likely to develop after an acute flu-like or mononucleosis-like illness, but gradual onset of illness may occur.

  • A 2003 review states that studies have reported between 7 and 3,000 cases of CFS for every 100,000 adults.
  • Approximately 250,000 people in the UK are affected with the illness according to the National Health Service.
  • The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 1 million Americans have CFS and approximately 80% of the cases are undiagnosed.



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