Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disease that causes you to become so fatigued (tired) you can't perform normal daily tasks. This is called chronic fatigue. The main symptom of CFS is chronic fatigue that lasts more than 6 months. Physical or mental activities often make the symptoms worse, and rest usually doesn't improve the symptoms.
People who have CFS may experience the following symptoms:
These and other symptoms often won't go away or keep coming back for 6 months or more.
CFS may occur after an illness (such as a cold) or it can start during or shortly after a period of high stress. It can also come on slowly without any clear starting point or any obvious cause. In some cases, CFS can last for years.
No one is certain about what causes CFS. The symptoms may be caused by a weak immune system. Or they may be caused by some kind of virus. Researchers are still looking for the cause of CFS.
CFS is complicated and difficult to diagnose. Some people have a hard time accepting CFS as a disease. It's important to remember that your fatigue is real and that you can work with your doctor to improve your symptoms.
The first step is to see if there is any other explainable cause for your fatigue. Your doctor will probably want to review your symptoms and medical history, and give you a physical exam. Your doctor may also want to do some blood tests, but lab testing is not often helpful in the diagnosis of CFS.
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.
Medicine can treat some of the symptoms, such as muscle aches, sleep problems, anxiety and depression. The medicine may only reduce your symptoms and allow you to be more active, not cure the fatigue. So far, there is no medicine that cures the entire syndrome. Most symptoms improve with time.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff