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Health Information: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

It is estimated that 150,000 people in the UK have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), yet it is one of the most misunderstood illnesses by the medical profession. Read on for more information about chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?

CFS is long term tiredness which can not be cured by sleep or rest. However this is one of many psychological and physical symptoms that can be confused with other disorders such as depression.

The term CFS is often used to define a range of illnesses where the common symptom is severe fatigue. Illnesses under the CFS umbrella include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis commonly known as ME, which is responsible for muscle pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

A separate illness called idiopathic chronic fatigue (ICF) which can sometimes develop into CFS is the name given to extreme fatigue but without other symptoms or specific cause.

Men, women and children can all develop CFS. Although it is more common for women between their early twenties and mid-forties and children aged between13 to15 to develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

CFS symptoms among patients are often wide and varied, making it notoriously difficult to diagnose.

Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is usually suspected if serious fatigue and other symptoms persist for six months or more without any other identifiable cause. However there is no definitive procedure for diagnosis.

For those who are concerned that they may have CFS should visit their GP for guidance and are likely to be given a blood test and asked about their medical history.

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Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS is commonly viewed as a combination of physical and psychological factors. However, these views exist mainly on theories and the exact cause of CFS is unknown, although strong evidence suggests viral infections, such as glandular fever, can trigger the condition.

Other research, for example a US study by Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center suggests CFS is an inherited condition and linked to the central nervous system and specific proteins found in spinal cord fluid.

In a study on healthy participants and people with CFS, researchers at Georgetown compared the two groups of people and found that healthy participants had no signs of the 16 specific proteins found in the spinal cord fluid of those with CFS.

The National Health Service (NHS) also supports the notion that reoccurring viral infections are responsible for CFS alongside stress, poor diet, being physically inactive or overactive, depression and environmental pollution. These symptoms can also make the condition more severe and last longer. Read on for further symptoms.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The biggest symptom of CFS is the overpowering feeling of fatigue. People with CFS usually feel too tired to perform normal activities and become easily exhausted for no apparent reason.

However it is a common misconception that this is the only symptom. Patients have also reported:

Loss of motivation
Muscular pain,
Severe headaches,
Poor short-term memory and concentration,
Difficulty organising your thoughts,
Stomach pains,
Sore throat/ Inflamed Glands,
Sensitivity to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods,
Poor mood,
Exhaustion and
Mental stress.

Rarer Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Difficulty controlling body temperature and
Panic attacks.

Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Unfortunately there is currently no routine procedure to cure CFS, even if other illnesses are ruled out.

However new research is often released suggesting possible treatments for the disease.

The latest study claims the antiviral drug called valganciclovir, often used to treat diseases such as herpes, has proven successful for sufferers of CFS.

Researchers at the US Stanford University School of Medicine treated several patients of CFS, including one male who had suffered with CFS symptoms for over 18 years. Results showed significant improvements even once medication had stopped.

However, Dr.José Montoya, who undertook the study, emphasises that the drug may not be effective in all cases. Kristin Loomis, executive director of the HHV-6 Foundation, a non-profit organisation which funds clinical research and encourages the scientific exchange between scientists, believes this is a huge development for CFS research.

“These viruses have been suspected in CFS for decades, but researchers couldn't prove it because they are so difficult to detect in the blood. If Montoya's results are confirmed, he will have made a real breakthrough.”

Lifestyle changes can also improve the symptoms caused by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

These include:

Balancing rest with activity,
Regular Pacing (balances activity and rest, and avoiding large bursts of exercise)
Moderate Exercise, Swimming or walking
Alternative therapies, such as osteopathy, nutritional therapy, and homeopathy may help.
Painkillers, strictly for muscle and joint pain and headaches,
Antidepressants can be useful for people who have depression with CFS and developing
Regular sleep patterns.

In addition, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT has been one of the most successful ways with dealing with CFS because it helps patients to identify their thoughts and feelings which can be used to develop new ways of coping with CFS symptoms.

Avoiding the following may also help suffers combat CFS symptoms:

Stressful situations,

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User Comments:
From Jan D
Hi, thanks for the info on CFS. However, I would like to point out that many, in fact most, of the symptoms listed for CFS are also listed for Lyme Disease, for which there is no reliable test. It is now commonly thought in many circles that many Lyme sufferers have been misdiagnosed with CFS and no amount of CBT or pacing will make any difference and may even make matters worse. Treatment for Lyme Disease is usually long term antibiotic therapy. Unfortunately the NHS guidelines don't really follow this and therefore a lot of people aren't getting the treatment which would help them to recover.Useful info at a help group at

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