We haven’t forgotten that a while ago, we asked you what you wanted to talk more about. We had several responses and we’ve covered some of them already. But we haven’t talked about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) yet. It’s a doozy!
CFS is a serious, long-term illness that affects many body systems. It’s also called “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” (ME) or “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease” (SEID). It is characterized by extreme fatigue or tiredness that will not go away, even with much-needed rest. CFS will more than likely disrupt daily activities, with many sufferers not even being able to get out of bed.
As if living with severe fatigue that disrupts your life isn’t bad enough, the maddening part is the fact that the cause of CFS is still unknown. Scientists are unsure about it. They think there may be more than one thing that causes it. They believe there may be a couple of triggers, so to speak, that work in conjunction to cause it.
The scary part is that anyone can get it, but it’s most commonly found in adult women between 40-60 years old. Caucasian people are more likely to find themselves diagnosed with it than any other race. The even scarier part is that there are many, many people who have CFS that haven’t been properly diagnosed with it.
The symptoms are pretty straightforward. If you experience any of the following, you may want to consult your doctor straight away:
- Severe fatigue that is not improved by rest
- Sleep problems
- Post-exertional malaise (PEM), where your symptoms get worse after any physical or mental activity
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
Here’s the ridiculous thing — CFS can be unpredictable. Symptoms may come and go. Some days, you may feel better. Other days, it can be more miserable than you would expect. To add insult to injury, it’s difficult to diagnose too. There are tons of other illnesses that have similar symptoms. You have to rule out pretty much all types of other diseases before a diagnosis can be made because there is simply no test for CFS.
Unfortunately, there are no known cures or even approved treatments for CFS at this time. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! Symptoms can be treated or managed. With some patience and fortitude, you, along with your health care provider and family, can come up with a plan to figure things out. It’s a good idea to observe which symptoms cause you the most grief and start there. Adapt new ways of managing your daily activities. Find out what is “too much” for you and don’t do whatever pushes you too far, especially on days when you feel better. Many people make the mistake of overexerting themselves on their “good” days and end up making their bad days worse.
Because CFS is such a monster, it’s important that you surround yourself with a strong, supportive community. Family and friends who are compassionate and willing to listen and lend a helping hand can be a vital part in dealing with CFS. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is no joke, but if you can find ways to laugh with loved ones and find the joy in the little things, you’ll find yourself in better spirits and more encouraged to fight for your quality of life.