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How To Recognize & Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome




CFS patient in bed

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is notoriously difficult to diagnose, mainly due to the fact that there are so many other conditions that produce similar symptoms.
However, identifying that you have CFS is crucial if you want to be able to manage and treat your condition. 
CFS is an incredibly difficult and challenging condition to live with, even though it is often dismissed as a minor ailment.
Imagine feeling so tired and fatigued on a daily basis that you are unable to carry out basic tasks that most people take for granted, such as going to work and doing the housework. 
Sufferers of CFS struggle with this each and every day, and can feel extreme fatigue for up to 24 hours after undertaking a physical or even a mental activity that they are not used to. 
Although not currently curable, CFS can be managed and treated once it has been identified. 
Who Is More Likely To Be Affected By CFS?
Although anyone can be affected by this life-changing condition, there are several groups that are at a higher risk than others:
  • People in their 40s and 50s are more susceptible 
  • Women are 2-4 times more likely than men to be affected 
  • People with a family history of CFS
  • People who experience high levels of stress
What Are The Symptoms Of CFS?
As well as having feelings of extreme fatigue that last more than six months, and that are not improved with bed rest, there are other physical problems that may be a sign that you are suffering with CFS. These can include:
  • Chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Memory loss 
  • An inability to concentrate 
  • Feeling dizzy or faint when standing up 
  • Muscle pain
  • Ongoing headaches 
  • Joint pain that show no signs of swelling or redness 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
It is also worth noting that many people go through periods of remission with CFS, which can result in sufferers believing they have overcome their problem; however, relapse is common. 
What Should I Do If I Think I Have CFS?
Again, this is a tricky one as CFS is hard to diagnose, but it is definitely worthwhile going to see your doctor, or another healthcare professional, to explain your symptoms and to gain advice. 
CFS currently affects between 1 and 4 million people in the U.S., but shockingly, around 85-90% are undiagnosed
If you do visit your doctor, they are likely to try and rule out all other conditions first, before diagnosing you with CFS, but ensure that you are persistent if you feel that you are not being taken seriously, or that you have been wrongly diagnosed with a different condition. 
You could also consider finding a private organization to carry out a cheap MRI scan on your behalf. Traditionally, MRI scans are not offered to people who believe they are suffering from CFS. However, research shows that CFS sufferers have diminished white matter, and white matter abnormalities in their brains, which can be identified with an MRI scan. So, if you believe that you have CFS, but your doctor does not believe you, a private MRI scan could be the way forward. 
Is CFS Treatable? 
Although there is no cure as of yet, if you are diagnosed with CFS, there are ways in which you can make your condition more manageable, therefore improving your quality of life.
Know Your Limits
If you regularly experience bouts of fatigue that last for 12-24 hours after undertaking a particular physical activity or mental strain, it be beneficial to identify when exactly you start to become fatigued, so that you can pace yourself in the future.
Knowing when to stop and rest can be crucial in avoiding long periods of chronic fatigue. 
Make Lifestyle Changes
Maybe not what you want to hear, but if you do have CFS, it is in your best interest to make lifestyle adjustments (even small ones), in order to help better manage your condition.
These include:
  • Avoiding naps to prevent insomnia at night 
  • Reducing your caffeine intake 
  • Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and illegal drugs 
  • Creating a consistent sleep routine and sticking to it
Medicine – Both Traditional and Alternative
Although there is no single medication to treat CFS, your doctor may prescribe some sort of sleeping aid if you have made the recommended lifestyle changes, but are still experiencing sleeping problems. 
You could also try an alternative remedy, such as acupuncture or massage, both of which are known to help alleviate the pain associated with CFS. 
Do not give up if you are suffering from CFS; you will find the right treatment plan that works for you; it may just take a little more persistence and time. 

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