Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder
characterized by extreme fatigue that doesn't improve with bed rest and
may worsen with physical or mental activity. Its a disease that causes
you to become so fatigued (tired) you can't perform normal daily tasks.
Of all chronic illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome is one of the most
mysterious. Unlike infections, it has no clear cause. Unlike conditions
such as diabetes or anemia, there's essentially nothing to measure. And
unlike conditions such as heart disease, there are relatively few
Chronic fatigue syndrome may occur after an infection such as a cold
or viral syndrome. It can start during or shortly after a period of high
stress or come on gradually without any clear starting point or any
obvious cause. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a flu-like condition that can
drain your energy and sometimes last for years. People previously
healthy and full of energy may experience a variety of symptoms,
including extreme fatigue, weakness and headaches as well as difficulty
concentrating and painful joints, muscles and lymph nodes.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome exhibit signs and symptoms similar
to those of most common viral infections. Unlike flu (influenza)
symptoms, which usually subside in a few days or weeks, the signs and
symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can last for months or years. They
may come and go frequently with no identifiable pattern.
People with CFS experience fatigue that lasts a long time. Symptoms
may include headaches, sore throat, tender or painful areas in your neck
or armpits, unexplained muscle soreness, pain that moves from joint to
joint without swelling or redness, loss of memory or concentration,
trouble sleeping and extreme tiredness after exercising that lasts more
than 24 hours. These and other symptoms often won't go away or keep
coming back for 6 months or more.
A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is based on exclusion. This
means that before arriving at a diagnosis, a doctor has ruled out any
other disease or condition that may be causing your fatigue and related
No one is certain about what causes CFS. The symptoms may be caused
by an immune system that isn't working well. Or they may be caused by
some kind of virus. Researchers are still looking for the cause of CFS.
In general, doctors find it difficult to diagnose chronic fatigue
syndrome because it has some of the same signs and symptoms as many
other diseases. There's no diagnostic or laboratory procedure to confirm
the presence of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Women are diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome two to four times
as often as men are. However, it's unclear whether chronic fatigue
syndrome affects women more frequently or if women report it to their
doctors more often than men do.
Because the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown,
there's no known way to prevent the illness from occurring. Be aware of
the symptoms and signs of chronic fatigue syndrome and seek the help of
your doctor to manage them if they occur.
Fatigue can be a symptom of many illnesses, such as infections or
psychological disorders. In general, see your doctor if you have
persistent or excessive fatigue. Severe fatigue that prevents you from
fully participating in activities at home, work or school may be a sign
of an underlying medical condition.
Your doctor can work with you to provide symptom relief and to help
you find ways of coping with the way CFS changes your life. Chronic
fatigue affects you physically, emotionally and socially. When you
address all of these factors, you have the best chance of adjusting to
your illness and feeling more satisfied with your life.
If you have CFS, a good long-term relationship with your doctor
helps. This relationship can be the key to managing CFS.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention