Do you feel constantly tired, no matter how much sleep you get? Are you struggling to complete everyday tasks? You may have chronic fatigue syndrome.
In this article, we’ll explore the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and how to manage them. We’ll also discuss what treatments are available for CFS and how you can find help.
What Is Chronic Fatigue?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes extreme fatigue. The fatigue can be so severe that it interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 2.5 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome. The condition can occur at any age, but it’s most common in people between the ages of 20 and 50. CFS is also more common in women than men.
Chronic fatigue is not the same as feeling tired after a night out or working a long shift, which usually goes away after a good night’s sleep and rest. The fatigue associated with the syndrome lasts for more than six months and can be debilitating.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome often feel tired, run-down, and flu-like for weeks or months. Their bodies become so weak that they may struggle to get out of bed and do normal activities like cooking or cleaning the house — let alone go to work or school as they once did before they became ill.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue?
The cause of CFS is unknown, but it is believed that a combination of factors contributes to the condition. These include:
Virus or Infection
In most cases, it’s thought that CFS follows a viral infection such as the flu or mononucleosis (mono). But these initial infections may not be severe enough to cause symptoms. It’s possible that something else triggers the illness.
A poor diet can cause chronic fatigue syndrome in some people because it can lead to nutritional deficiencies that make you feel weak and tired all the time.
If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. The result is inflammation that causes pain and fatigue.
Changes in hormone levels may play a role in triggering chronic fatigue syndrome. For example, the thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate metabolism. If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience chronic fatigue.
What Are The Risk Factors for Chronic Fatigue?
While exact causes of chronic fatigue syndrome aren’t known, certain factors may increase your risk of getting it, including:
CFS usually begins after age 30, but it can occur at any age. For example, teenagers and young adults may develop CFS following an infection. Older adults often have other conditions that cause chronic fatigue or make them more likely to develop CFS.
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with CFS, although some experts believe this is because women tend to be more willing to report their symptoms than men.
Having a family member with CFS increases your risk of developing it yourself. Also, if one identical twin has CFS, there’s about a 90% chance that the other twin will also have it — even if they live apart.
Some people develop CFS after a stressful or traumatic event, such as a serious accident or illness. Other people may be exposed to certain chemicals or pollutants that can trigger CFS symptoms.
Symptoms Of Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue is more than just feeling tired all the time. It’s a condition that can make even the simplest tasks feel impossible. People with chronic fatigue may feel like they have no energy, are unable to concentrate, and are constantly tired. However, the symptoms of chronic fatigue can vary from person to person.
There are several other symptoms associated with chronic fatigue as well, including:
The hallmark symptom of CFS is extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest or sleep. People with this condition may feel as if they have no energy to do anything, including simple activities such as getting out of bed or brushing their teeth.
Some people with CFS feel like they’re carrying around a “lead weight” on their shoulders, while others report feeling like they have no energy.
Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome develop sore throats frequently. This can cause problems with swallowing and make eating difficult at times. In rare cases, this symptom may signal an illness like mononucleosis (glandular fever).
Some people with CFS experience headaches that are different from common migraines — they’re usually worse when sitting up than lying down and tend to move around the head instead of staying in one spot like migraines do.
Many people with CFS have trouble sleeping. They may fall asleep quickly but then wake up after a few hours and not be able to fall back asleep again. This can cause daytime fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating.
Some people with CFS have mood swings beyond everyday life’s normal ups and downs. These changes in mood may be severe enough to interfere with work, school, or relationships.
Other symptoms of chronic fatigue include:
Sensitivity to light
People with CFS may be sensitive to light and have trouble tolerating bright lights. They also may experience eye pain or headaches when exposed to bright light.
Muscle and joint pain
Aching muscles are another common symptom of CFS. The pain is usually described as mild to moderate in intensity and may be accompanied by tenderness, stiffness, and weakness. It’s usually worse in the morning, after exercise, and when stressed. Some people also have tenderness in certain areas of the body.
Brain fog is a common symptom of CFS. It’s often described as a feeling of confusion and difficulty concentrating or remembering things. The feeling can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities, such as reading, driving, and working.
Some people with CFS have a low-grade fever that’s not always noticeable. The fever may be present for several days or weeks, then go away and return again.
Painful Lymph nodes
Painful lymph nodes are another common symptom of CFS. The pain usually occurs in the neck or underarms and may be associated with swelling. Some people also have swollen glands in the neck.
How To Treat Chronic Fatigue?
Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome is aimed at helping patients manage their symptoms and improve their ability to function in daily life.
There are some lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms:
Get Regular Exercise
It might sound counterintuitive, but exercise can actually help relieve chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms. The key is finding an activity that you enjoy that isn’t overly stressful on your body.
Chronic stress can make fatigue worse. So, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation for 10 minutes daily. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, try relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery to help induce sleep.
Getting enough sleep
It’s important that people with CFS get plenty of sleep every night so they can function well during the day. If your fatigue is extreme, you may also need to take naps during the day.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a debilitating ailment that affects millions of people and is often difficult to diagnose due to its complex symptoms. If you’re worried that you or a loved one might suffer from CFS, try taking note of these five commonly reported symptoms. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you notice any of these signs—the quicker you get the right care, the sooner you can start getting better.