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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Key Q&A


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

What is chronic fatigue?

Fatigue is characterized by more than just a feeling of tiredness. It may be defined as a complete lack of energy or feeling of debilitating tiredness. Chronic fatigue is fatigue that lasts for a long time, often defined as at least six months.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating condition marked by profound, long-lasting fatigue and other symptoms that are not relieved by rest. The cause is unknown. The condition often starts abruptly but can develop gradually. Other symptoms related to CFS can include impaired concentration or short-term memory, sore throat and tender lymph nodes. Muscle pain, multiple joint pains without swelling or redness and headaches may also occur. Unrefreshing sleep and malaise lasting more than 24 hours after exertion are also common.

How common is chronic fatigue syndrome?

More than 1 million Americans have CFS, and tens of millions of people have similar conditions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CFS can strike anyone but is much more common in women and usually occurs in early or middle adulthood.

What other conditions can be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome?

A wide range of disorders may cause similar symptoms. These include chronic mononucleosis, sleep disorders, hypothyroidism, lupus or other autoimmune diseases, infections, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug abuse, cancer or even obesity, according to the CDC.

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