Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating condition in which people feel tired most or all of the time. The symptoms often include muscle aches and difficulty concentrating and last at least 6 months. Symptoms can come and go over long periods, and many people can have serious problems, including being unable to work. With good lifestyle habits, many people, especially those with CFS that occurred after a viral infection, improve or recover completely after 2 to 3 years.
The cause is unknown. Some believe that it is a complication of a viral infection, but no viruses have been identified. An abnormal response to an infection of the body’s immune system (the system that fights infections) or stress may have a role in CSF.
The most common complaints, apart from feeling tired, weak, or exhausted most of the time, include confusion and problems with concentration and memory, trouble sleeping, headache, sore throat, slight fever, vision changes, and pain in muscles, joints, and bones.
No specific test can diagnose CFS. The health care provider makes a diagnosis after noting specific symptoms present for at least 6 months: lasting, unexplained fatigue that isn’t the result of ongoing exertion, isn’t helped by rest, and results in a considerable reduction in activities.
Other symptoms include problems with memory or concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes (swollen glands), muscle pain, headache, pain in many joints, and unrefreshing sleep.
No cure is available, but supportive care from the health care provider and family members is very important. The health care provider may prescribe antiinflammatory medications to help with muscle aches. Antidepressants may also be prescribed. The health care provider will likely suggest an exercise program and a balanced diet. Counseling and behavior therapy may help with coping with CFS symptoms.
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