Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is one of the few disorders in this world that have no explainable reason behind them. However, it can be described as chronic and persistent fatigue, which has no particular explanation behind it, and lasts for a minimum of six months. Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME, the syndrome is known to have affected tens of thousands of people. It is more common in females, in comparison to males, and is mainly prevalent in young to middle-aged adults, especially those in their 40s-50s, with children and adolescents mostly spared from its onslaught.
The people who have been affected with chronic fatigue syndrome find it difficult to perform normally at work or at home. This is mainly because of the excessive fatigue that they experience, combined with short-term memory problems. More often than not, such a situation leads to depression in the affected person. However, depression cannot be adjudged as the reason behind the syndrome. Rather, CFS does not have any plausible reason behind it. Though several viruses have been studied as possible causes of CFS, no cause-and-effect relationship has been discovered so far.
In majority of the cases, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) starts abruptly, all of a sudden, and the affected person displays flu-like symptoms. The problem is more likely to be experience in the winter season. It has also been seen that many people exhibited symptoms of CFS after being exposed to several months of severe adverse stress. However, till date, no valid relationship has been formulated between development of CFS and infection and/or stress
Signs & Symptoms
As per United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person has to suffer from the following set of symptoms, in order to be treated as someone suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
The person should suffer from a sudden and new onset of fatigue that is persistent and cannot be explained. The fatigue should not be related to exertion. At the same time, the fatigue should not undergo a decline when the person undertakes rest, in turn resulting in a significant reduction in previous levels of his/ her activity.
The person should exhibit four or more of the following symptoms, for a period of at least six months (even longer):
- Impaired memory or concentration
- Post-exertional malaise, where physical or mental exertions bring on "extreme, prolonged exhaustion and sickness"
- Un-refreshing sleep
- Muscle pain (myalgia)
- Pain in multiple joints (arthralgia)
- Headaches of a new kind or greater severity
- Sore throat, frequent or recurring
- Tender lymph nodes (cervical or axillary)
The patients who have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome often tend to suffer from a severe dip in their physical activity levels. In majority of the cases, the impairment is comparable to other fatiguing medical conditions, like multiple sclerosis, late-stage AIDS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the effects of chemotherapy. Both the genders experience almost similar severity of symptoms and disability.