How do you know if you have chronic fatigue syndrome and how to treat it?
Although multiple health conditions can cause fatigue and general weakness, there is also a separate health condition with fatigue as the main characteristic and the respective name – chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The reasons for the condition are not fully understood, there are various theories but scientists believe that it is most likely caused by the combination of factors:
- Macro and micronutrients deficiency;
- Poor ecology;
- Poor working conditions;
- Food allergy;
- Physical and mental overstrain;
- Viral infection. The theory of viral induction of the disorder is considered the most promising as there had been conducted multiple studies that prove people with certain viruses, for instance, Epstein-Barr, are more likely to develop chronic fatigue than healthy individuals.
However, there is still insufficient data on the matter so the diagnosis is made based on the reported symptoms rather than actual tests.
How is chronic fatigue syndrome different from other fatigue?
Although many health conditions result in fatigue, CFS can be diagnosed when a person doesn’t have an obvious reason for fatigue and the symptoms are more intense than in fatigue induced by a chronic illness, overworking, and so on. The symptoms of the condition are:
- Sleep doesn’t make you rested;
- Frequent headaches without visible reasons for them;
- Excessive daytime sleepiness;
- Trouble falling asleep even after an intense physical load;
- Mood swings, irritability, aggressiveness;
- Frequent infections;
- Proneness to allergic reactions;
- Deterioration of cognitive functions, e.g. memory, ability to focus, etc.
- Frequent sore throat;
- Inflamed/enlarged lymph nodes on the neck and armpits;
- Unexplainable muscle pain;
- Irritable bowel;
- Increased sensitivity to light, smells, noises, etc.
These symptoms are taken into consideration if they significantly affect a person’s daily life and make it substantially different from the life they lead before the onset of the symptoms. Besides, at least 4 symptoms should be observed throughout not less than six months before the diagnosis establishment.
How is CFS diagnosed?
CFS is an officially confirmed condition although not many doctors are willing to make the diagnosis and appoint treatment. The reason for that is that some of them are afraid of making a wrong diagnosis which can result in a patient’s deteriorated condition, for instance, in an overlooked pathology. Besides, some doctors do not even believe in CFS diagnosis. So what should you do if you have the symptoms of the disease?
First of all, go to a doctor and make all appointed tests to exclude other conditions that can have similar symptoms. Although for the diagnosis of CFS the symptoms should be present for 6 months or more, you should not wait for so long as you may be losing time that is crucial for the treatment of serious conditions that can cause fatigue, for instance, a malignant tumor. Thus, you should go to a doctor as soon as you started suffering from increased unreasonable fatigue and if there is no an underlying condition that can cause it, you can start keeping a diary to document all of your symptoms, their intensity, what triggers them, and so on for 6 months and then come back to your doctor to get diagnosed with CFS.
How can you treat chronic fatigue?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for CFS. However, the symptoms can be alleviated but there is no single treatment plan as the causes for the condition and its severity differ.
First of all, you need to be sure that you don’t need a specific treatment for an underlying condition. If there is a need for it, make it your priority. If there is no underlying condition, your doctor can recommend you the following:
- Developing good sleep routine, i.e. going to bed and waking up at the same time every day;
- Balancing your work and rest ratio;
- Healthy eating, i.e. reducing junk food, saturated fats, sugar, incorporating more vegetables and lean meat or fish.
- Massage for relaxation;
- Meditation, psychotherapy, autogenous training or other active methods for normalization of the psychoemotional state;
- Creating and following workout routine;
- Medication therapy.
- Diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases that cause low oxygen content in the blood, for instance, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic nasal congestion, and others.
The medications for the condition are chosen based on the symptoms and accompanying conditions. For instance, people with chronically stuffy nose antihistamines (allergy drugs) can be appointed. For people suffering from irritated bowel anti-inflammatory drugs are used.
Besides, since the condition significantly affects cognitive functions and generally makes a person sleepy, wakefulness-promoting medicines designed for other conditions can be of great use. For instance, they include antinarcoleptic medicines such as Adderall or Armodafinil. Both of these medications effectively promote wakefulness and enhance cognitive functions, i.e. ability to focus, memory, speed of reaction, speed of thinking, and so on. You can choose either of these drugs as they both have the same effect. However, they also have certain differences. See the comparison below.
- Addiction development;
- Digestive disorders;
- Dryness of mouth;
- Abdominal pain;
- Trouble falling asleep;
- Sexual dysfunctions;
- Panic attacks;
- High arterial pressure;
- High body temperature;
- Blurred vision, and others.
Adverse reactions usually go away in a day or two. But in the occurrence of allergy the therapy must be ceased.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women;
- History of substance abuse;
- Heart disease;
- Bipolar disorder;
- Anorexia nervosa;
- Thyroid gland dysfunction;
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO) use;
- Depressive disorders;
- Raised arterial tension;
- Liver or kidney dysfunction;
- Raynaud’s syndrome,
- Tics or Tourette syndrome.
- Pregnancy and lactation;
- Allergy or intolerance of the medication;
- Decompensated liver cirrhosis;
- Severe heart disease.
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