Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a major health problem. Not only in the United States but in many other countries as well.

CFS is characterized by a severe persistent fatigue that does not respond to rest and is exacerbated by moderate exertion. There are no infectious or chemical agents consistently associated with it and no indication of it being hereditary. CFS is only considered after all other causes of fatigue have been ruled out. There currently exists no medical test capable of diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome.

Because of this, some physicians have even been skeptical that it is a “real” disease.  Diagnostic methods have been improved over the last several years, however, and the Mayo Clinic now lists eight symptoms that should be considered during a medical evaluation.  A strong indication of CFS is persistent fatigue lasting for at least six months and the presence of any four of these accompanying symptoms:

  1. Loss of memory or concentration
  2. Sore throat
  3. Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
  4. Unexplained muscle pain
  5. Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
  6. Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
  7. Unrefreshing sleep
  8. Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise

Treatment Options

Treatment for CFS, as with many other long-term fatigue disorders, is very limiting.  One way to combat CFS is by taking measures to reduce the associated symptoms. Over-the-counter pain medications can provide relief for joint and muscle pain and headaches in many cases. However, very severe pain may require the use of narcotic medications such as codeine or hydrocodone.  In this case, careful monitoring by the patient and physician is essential to reduce the risk of addiction. Antidepressants may help those with anxiety or when achieving good sleep is an issue. When excessive sleepiness is the problem, drugs such as modafinil and armodafinil may be prescribed. The quality of life improves when the patient remains personally involved in their treatment.

Things you can do to ease your symptoms:
  • Keep a record of those things that relieve symptoms and those that make them worse.
  • Stick to a regular bedtime.
  • Reduce consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco to improve sleep.
  • Avoid overexertion.

Finally, finding a doctor who has experience in diagnosing and treating CFS is essential. In addition, it helps to develop a treatment plan with a doctor who is proficient at working closely with the psychological as well as the physical needs of the patient.