The world itself is a mystery and, at every corner you take, you will find something human beings have not yet been able to understand. The very mechanism behind our bodies is still relatively unknown as there are many things we have yet to understand. And, together with the confusion related to our bodies, the medical world is filled with mysteries of its own.
The chronic fatigue syndrome is one of them. Along with other significantly debilitating medical conditions out there (such as fibromyalgia), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, (as it is sometimes referred to) is one of the conditions that have yet to be understood. We have come a long way in understanding precisely the way in which this syndrome functions, but with every step taken into the right direction other several questions seem to arise. What is the chronic fatigue syndrome, what causes it and how it can be treated? Read on and find out more.
The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: What Is It?
CFS comes under many names, including “post-viral fatigue syndrome”, “chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome” and “myalgic encephalomyelitis”. And even if we have named it in a lot of ways, we cannot understand it completely.
The main symptom shown by chronic fatigue syndrome patients is fatigue that does not appear to have an actual reason (no exertion) and that does not dissipate with rest. Along with this symptom, several others appear as well, including the following:
- Malaise after exertion
- Muscle and joint pain
- Sleep that is not refreshing
- Cognitive difficulties
- Severe headaches
- Mental exhaustion
- Physical exhaustion
- Odd symptoms that had not been experienced by the patients before (muscle weakness, sensitivity to light, digestion problems, depression, painful lymph nodes, cardiac issues, respiratory problems, and so on).
Some of these symptoms are very unclear in themselves as well and specialists don’t know exactly whether they are part of the way in which the chronic fatigue syndrome functions or if they are co-morbid conditions that are very commonly encountered. Whichever way you look at it though, CFS can really alter the quality of one’s life and that this condition is as real as it gets for more than one million Americans who have already been diagnosed with it.
The chronic fatigue syndrome behaves differently in different people. Some of them are able to live relatively normal lives. But for others, this syndrome makes them completely bed-ridden and it is sometimes associated with how other fatiguing conditions (such as AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, end-stage renal diseases and so on). Some people notice a lowering of their physical activity level, while others are more affected by this. Even more than that, some people experience periods of feeling much better and some of these also relapse too.
What Causes the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
If symptoms are fairly clear (or at least some of them are), the causes that actually lead to the development of CFS are really unknown. However, several theories have been developed up to the moment and they provide us with a better insight into what the chronic fatigue syndrome is and how it functions.
Some scientists have theorized thatthere is a series of factors that can lead to the development and onset of CFS. For instance, there are people in the medical world who believe that viral infections have an important role to play when it comes to chronic fatigue because there are many patients who develop the syndrome after having suffered from a viral infection (such as the Epstein-Barr infection, mouse leukemia or human herpes 6 virus).
Also, it has been noticed that it happens quite frequently that people diagnosed with CFS experience abnormal levels of hormonal activity (especially in the adrenal gland, in the pituitary gland and in the hypothalamus gland).
Last, but not least, it appears that patients with the chronic fatigue syndrome also experience a low immunity and scientists are researching on the link between the onset/development of the syndrome and immune system problems as well.
In addition to these 3 main branches in the study of the CFS causes, there are also some risk factors that are believed to contribute a lot to whether or not a person develops the syndrome. These factors include age (40-50 years old being the most frequently age at which the syndrome is encountered), sex (women being diagnosed with the chronic fatigue syndrome more often) and stress (people who live stressful lives are more at risk of developing CFS).
Is There Any Treatment for the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Since the actual causes of this syndrome are not known, no cure has been developed yet. Still, there are many people who manage to live better by applying certain treatments that are recommended to them by their medical professionals.
Depending on how serious the condition is in a patient’s case, these treatments can be mildly effective. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is applied in the case of other mysterious illnesses and medical conditions out there as well) is used quite commonly and it can help people improve their lives after a while.
Also, graded exercise therapy may be recommended as well. As a form of physical therapy, this kind of treatment has been shown to have results in certain cases (with the symptoms ameliorating after 12 weeks, but not significantly after 24 weeks).
Pacing is also recommended too. Basically, this practice involves closely watching one’s symptoms and recommending stopping from the activity when there are signs of exertion. In some cases, patients are able to stop from their activity right before they would develop malaise as a result of exertion.
At the moment, there is not much one can do about CFS. But the good news is that researchers and physicians are actually working on it and that soon enough some form of treatment to show better results will appear as well. Until then, patients with the chronic fatigue syndrome have to take care of themselves as well as possible and to follow their doctors’ recommendations.