Almost everyone has felt tired at some point in their lives, whether from late working hours, watching TV, talking, lack of sleep, or any disease. Resting or a nap can improve tiredness instantly.
Do you feel exhausted forever or have a constant lack of energy without any pathological condition; it can be a critical issue. Most of the time, fatigue has a reason. So first, let’s understand what fatigue is.
What is fatigue?
Fatigue is a physical or mental condition of tiredness and low energy level. Fatigue is different from tiredness or sleepiness. People, who are suffering from fatigue, feel unexplainable exhaustion that interrupts their routine work. It can be due to various reasons, including:
- Temporary fatigue can be due to a sedentary lifestyle, cold, flu, allergies, alcohol consumption, stress, drug abuse, side effects of over-the-counter drugs, or jet lag.
- Chronic fatigue (persisting for six months or more) can be due to a sleep disorder, a symptom of underlying diseases or disorders, psychological conditions, or after-effects of various treatments (chemotherapy or bone marrow transplants).
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or myalgic encephalomyelitis) is a severe and long-term fatigue condition. Let’s dig more into chronic fatigue syndrome and its effect on our daily activities.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a complex disorder expressed by severe lethargy or tiredness that persists even after rest and can’t be due to medical conditions. It is a chronic health problem and lasts for more than six months.
The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome often worsen if you engage in physical or mental activities. In normal conditions, tiredness improves with rest and a good night’s sleep, but in chronic fatigue syndrome, the tiredness doesn’t go with rest and affects the quality of life.
Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
The symptoms of CFS vary from person to person. The following are some common symptoms of the chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Profound tiredness, which worsens with exertion.
- Dizziness increases after standing up or moving from a lying or sitting position.
- Impaired-cognitive functions. It includes short-term memory retention problems and foggy thoughts. In severe conditions, a person may face difficulty talking and understanding speech.
- Regardless of how much a person with CFS feels tired, they suffer from inconsistent sleep and feel tired after waking up in the mornings.
- Pain and stiffness in joints and muscles. The muscle and joint pain is intermittent, appears suddenly, and diminishes on its own.
- People with CFS develop weakened immunity with time. So, they fall sick more often and are prone to various autoimmune diseases.
- Difficult to sit upright position for a long duration
- Some people feel nausea or dizziness while standing or sitting upright (orthostatic intolerance).
- After physical or mental exertion, the patient may experience post-exertional malaise (PEM), characterized as severe fatigue, pain, or sore throat. PEM usually starts 12 to 48 hours after the exertion and lasts for a few days.
- A person with CFS becomes vulnerable to loud sounds or sharp smells.
Causes of chronic fatigue syndrome
The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unidentified. But, some factors can lead to this condition, including:
- Genetic predisposition: Some people have a genetic predisposition towards CFS.
- Viral infections: After recovery from a viral disease, some people develop chronic fatigue syndrome. Some causative viruses include the human herpes virus (HPV6) and Epstein-Barr virus.
- Bacterial infections: Some bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, can lead to CFS conditions.
- Women are more likely to have CFS compared to men.
- Hormonal imbalances of the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and adrenal glands correlate with the CFS.
Treatment options for chronic fatigue syndrome
There is no sure treatment for this condition. CFS is a complex condition and has similar symptoms to many diseases. So after careful evaluation, a healthcare provider suggests the following treatment modalities:
- Symptomatic relief: As there is no definitive cure, medications control some symptoms, including:
- Pain-relievers, control the muscle and joint pain
- Medications to control blood pressure and heart rate in patients suffering from the orthostatic intolerance
- Low-dose of antidepressants in case of depression
- Post-exertional malaise (PEM) management: The treatment includes rest breaks, knowing your limit for mental or physical activities, and balancing rest and work to avoid PEM development.
- Lifestyle modification: Some changes in daily routine can improve fatigue, including creating a sleep schedule, limiting caffeine intake, a beneficial exercise regimen, and a balanced diet.
- Psychological therapy: Counseling with a therapist can help cope with stress and depression related to this long-term illness and limitations of work. Talking with a counselor can also improve your relationship with family and friends.
If you have had this chronic disease for a long time, don’t lose hope. With some simple alterations in your schedule and a positive attitude, you can cope with chronic fatigue syndrome.