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 treatment options.

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 symptoms.

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

Family Doctor.Org


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