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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex disorder that can be devastating. If you have CFS you experience overwhelming fatigue and a host of other symptoms. You’ll also notice that you most likely function at a substantially lower level of activity than what you were capable of before they became ill. Your symptoms can worsen due to physical and/or mental exertion.
In addition to fatigue, other symptoms include muscle pain and poor memory and/or mental concentration and insomnia.
It is not yet clear what causes CFS, and there are no tests to diagnose it. In addition, because many illnesses have fatigue as a symptom, doctors need to take care to rule out other conditions, which may be treatable.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has set forth the following criteria to diagnose CFS:
These symptoms should have persisted or recurred during six or more consecutive months of illness, and they cannot have first appeared before the fatigue.
While a single cause for CFS has not been identified, a possibility is that CFS has multiple triggers. Some of the possible causes of CFS might be:
The primary symptom of CFS is unexplained, severe fatigue lasting at least six months, that is not improved by bed rest, and that can get worse after physical activity or mental exertion. People with CFS experience a fatigue so strong that their ability to sustain activity substantially declines. However, fatigue is not the only symptom, and for some people, fatigue may not be the symptom that bothers them the most.
Many CFS patients may experience other symptoms, including irritable bowel, depression or other psychological problems, chills and night sweats, visual disturbances, brain fog, difficulty maintaining upright position, dizziness, balance problems, fainting, and allergies or sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications, or noise.
Because there is no blood test or other objective test to diagnose CFS, it can only be made after ruling out other possible illnesses. A doctor will first take a detailed medical history and then will conduct a thorough physical and mental health exam.
Next, a series of laboratory tests will be ordered to help identify or rule out other possible causes of symptoms. If you have had severe fatigue for six months or longer but don’t have at least four of the eight symptoms of CFS (and thus, do not meet the criteria for a CFS diagnosis), your doctor may make a diagnosis of idiopathic fatigue (fatigue with an unknown cause). Idiopathic fatigue is treated in a similar way as chronic fatigue syndrome.
You doctor should consider a diagnosis of CFS if these three criteria are met:
Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be as complex as the illness itself. There is no cure, and no prescription drugs have been developed specifically for CFS. Therefore, if you have CFS, you should closely monitor your health and let your doctor know of any changes.
Your doctor should regularly monitor your conditions and change treatment strategies, as needed.
A team approach that involves doctors and patients is one key to managing CFS. You benefit when you can work in collaboration with a team of doctors and other health care practitioners, who might include rehabilitation specialists, mental health professionals, and physical or exercise therapists. Together, you can create an individualized treatment program that best meets your CFS needs. This program should be based on a combination of therapies that address symptoms, coping techniques, and managing normal daily activities.
If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and can’t work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Contact Nash Disability Law for help.