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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Fast Facts

Reviewed By: Vikas Garg, M.D., MSA

  • Fatigue is defined as a lack of energy or feeling of debilitating tiredness.

  • Chronic fatigue is often defined as lasting at least six months. It is a symptom commonly experienced by people with many conditions ranging from fibromyalgia to hypothyroidism.

  • Chronic fatigue is not the same thing as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which involves severe fatigue for at least six months plus at least four additional symptoms for at least six months.

  • These additional symptoms may include tender lymph nodes, sore throat, impaired short-term memory or concentration, muscle pain, multiple joint pains without swelling or redness, new type of headache, lack of refreshment from sleep, and discomfort for more than 24 hours after exertion.

  • CFS can affect anyone but is most common in women, particularly those in their 40s.

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome was named in the 1980s, but the condition or similar disorders have been known by other names for centuries. It used to be called chronic Epstein-Barr because it was once blamed on the Epstein-Barr virus.

  • Diagnosis of CFS typically begins with a review of the medical history and a physical examination by a doctor. Factors important in the history include current medical conditions, medications and pattern of fatigue. Blood tests, urinalysis and imaging tests are often performed to rule out other conditions.

  • To accurately assess fatigue, the doctor may ask your to rate your fatigue on a scale of zero to 10, where a rating of 10 indicates maximum fatigue.

  • The cause of CFS is unknown. Possible factors include neurological dysfunction, genetic predisposition, stress, metabolic disturbances, hormones or environment.

  • Relief options for CFS can include medications, adherence to a schedule of physical activity and rest, stress management, relaxation therapy, counseling, dietary changes, and acupuncture or acupressure.



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