What is chronic fatigue syndrome? Symptoms, causes and treatment
by Floris Biesemans on Feb 20, 2023
Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndromeCFS is a multifaceted condition that affects different people in different ways. Some common symptoms include:
- Extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months and does not improve with rest.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Non-refreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion after physical or mental activity
Causes of chronic fatigue syndromeThe exact cause of CFS is unknown. However, several theories are proposed in the literature, including:
- Viral infections: Some studies suggest that CFS may be triggered by viral infections such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6).
- Immune system dysfunction: CFS may be related to an abnormal immune system response.
- Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, such as too low levels of thyroid hormones, may contribute to CFS.
- Psychological factors: Stress, anxiety and depression may play a role in the development of CFS.
Treatment options for chronic fatigue syndromeCurrently, there is no direct treatment for CFS. However, treatment options can help control symptoms, and still improve quality of life that way. Here are some examples:
- Learning to manage stress: talking to a friend, therapist or family member is often the first step.
- Stress-reducing techniques: yoga, meditation and deep breathing can naturally bring great improvement to patients with CFS.
- Vitamins and supplements: targeted supplements to reduce stress and improve sleep can give a boost in the fight against CFS.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help people with CFS change negative thinking patterns, which can help reduce symptoms of fatigue and improve overall quality of life.
- Graduated exercise therapy (GET): GET is a form of physical therapy that can help improve energy levels and muscle function.
- Pacing: Pacing refers to balancing rest and activity to prevent overexertion.
- Medications: Antidepressants and sleep medication may be prescribed to help with fatigue and sleep disorders. Note that prescription medication should always be the last option. Medications can be addictive and often have significant side effects.
Coping with chronic fatigue syndromeLiving with CFS can be difficult, and it is important to be well supported by loved ones. These can include friends, family and a health care provider. It is also important to maintain a positive mindset and try to stay as active as possible. Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing can often help.
In short, chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex condition. It can be debilitating, making it important for sufferers to try different solutions so that progress can be made quickly. Do you still suffer from fatigue? Then read the blog "Fatigue, what can you do about being tired?".