Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: 8 Warning Symptoms To Look Out For

Date December 20, 2017

It’s normal to feel tired after strenuous physical exercise or difficult mental activities. But there’s a condition in which people feel extremely fatigued for no apparent reason. The condition is called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); its other names are myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and systemic exertion intolerance disorder (SEID).

Chronic fatigue syndrome is something of a mystery illness. To this day, its cause (or causes) remains unknown. Some experts suggest it may be related to fibromyalgia, another poorly understood disorder. It’s been only three decades since CFS was recognized as a legitimate medical disorder. Some doctors still call the very existence of CFS into question. But it’s gained more recognition, and extensive studies are being carried out to learn more about CFS.

It’s not clear how many people have CFS, because it may often go unreported or be misdiagnosed. The CDC cites a report by the Institute of Medicine which states that anywhere from 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans may be affected by CFS.

What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

As the name suggests, the main distinctive symptom of CFS is debilitating fatigue that is not relieved by sleeping and rest. It can be so severe that it leaves individuals with CFS unable to complete daily tasks or even get out of bed.

Fatigue and other symptoms may get worse after even mild exertion. To be diagnosed as CFS, symptoms have to last 6 months or longer. Symptoms of CFS that occur along with fatigue may include the following:

  • muscle and joint pain (without inflammation);
  • headaches;
  • flu-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, mild fever, and general weakness;
  • tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits;
  • “brain fog” (problems with memory, thinking, and concentration);
  • difficulty falling and staying asleep;
  • orthostatic intolerance (feeling dizzy and weak when sitting upright and standing);
  • digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Symptoms of CFS may come and go.

If you have such symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. It may or may not be CFS because its symptoms overlap with those of many other conditions, but it’s important to have them checked anyway.

The diagnosis of CFS is often elusive because there are no specific tests for the condition. Doctors diagnose CFS based on the patient’s medical history, his or her own description of symptoms, a physical exam, and tests to rule out other causes of symptoms.

What are the possible causes of chronic fatigue syndrome?

As we mentioned above, the cause of CFS hasn’t been established. But there are some theories as to what can trigger or contribute to the development of CFS. These factors include the following:

  • viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus, human herpesvirus 6, and enterovirus;
  • bacterial infections, e.g. pneumonia;
  • immune system issues (weakened immune system, or autoimmunity to parts of the nervous system);
  • imbalance of hormones, especially those produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary glands, or adrenal glands (HPA axis);
  • physical or emotional stress.

There’s no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome and there is no standard treatment for the disorder. However, there are treatments that are targeted at symptom relief. Younger CFS patients have better chances of recovery, but such cases are still rare.

Source: CDC, Mayo Clinic, NHS UK, Encyclopedia Britannica

READ ALSO: Fibromyalgia: What It Is And How To Manage The Symptoms

This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.