Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

November 12, 2012

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an illness associated with a variety of symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, severe fatigue, sore throat, headaches and cognitive complaints. Intense fatigue is probably the most recognized symptom.

The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome may appear suddenly but there are some cases where the symptoms begin slowly. In the cases where the symptoms have appeared suddenly it appears to happen after a bout of flu, gastrointestinal, respiratory or other infections. Some patients report the illness has occurred after a physical or emotional trauma.

The seriousness of the symptoms of this illness varies between each individual. Apart from the severe fatigue which no amount of rest can cure, there are other symptoms which have been reported. These include: lack of concentration, short-term memory loss and tenderness in the area of the lymph nodes.

Serious symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome tend to occur at the beginning of this illness, normally in the first or second year. After this time the symptoms usually become steady. But then some patients report the symptoms may increase whilst others report a decrease. This means some patients make a full recovery while for others their recovery is partial or a relapse may be experienced. At present it is not possible to map the course of this illness, so the unpredictability remains.

There are conditions which may be attributed to chronic fatigue syndrome and these are:

  • Cancer

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Narcolepsy

  • Sleep apnea

  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C which has not been resolved

  • Obesity

  • Alcohol or substance abuse

  • Side effects from certain medications

  • Multiple Sclerosis

  • Serious Depression

  • Bipolar

  • Schizophrenia

  • Dementia

  • Anorexia nervosa

If a patient reports that this illness is having a serious effect on their normal day to day activities, they should be assessed with care and compassion. There are no changes to the physical appearance of the patient with this illness. This can mean friends and family, employers and sometimes even the doctor, may experience doubts about the validity of this illness.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an extremely disabling and debilitating illness for many. And this is because the patient is suffering from joint and muscle pain, fatigue and a broken sleep. It is not normally a progressive illness. Treatment for patients should be symptomatic and the offer of emotional support should be given.

It is crucial for the doctor to build up a relationship with the patient based on open communication and trust. This allows the doctor to provide correct information regarding treatments. The patient can also be informed of the harm which may be caused if they choose to try out remedies which have not been tested.

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome should reduce or avoid situations which are psychologically or physically stressful. They have to slow down a bit in their everyday lives. It may be that some counseling sessions help the family and patient adapt to the uncertainty which is related to this illness.

Patients with this illness should get help on the best way to balance rest with activity, set goals which are realistic and have a plan of action to deal with the ups and downs related to chronic fatigue syndrome.

Taking part in exercise out of the blue is not recommended. This may bring about many of the symptoms mentioned. But patients should begin slowly building up their exercise regime. It may be through a program of physical therapy where an exercise program is specifically designed for the patient. This helps to build the patient’s confidence mentally and physically, as they realize they can take part in physical activity. Perhaps not the way they did before but they are slowly but surely achieving goals.

There is no particular program used in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. It may be that a few different approaches in treatment have to be considered before any benefits appear. The doctor and patient have to remain open to all treatment options. And also both have to be aware that any improvement may only happen in small stages.

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