Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: when is fatigue not normal?

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

It is a condition characterized by a feeling of chronic fatigue, without a previous psychiatric or pathological background and a variety of symptoms both physical and psychological.

What is it due to?

The cause is unknown. It is more common in women between the ages of 25-45, but can happen to anyone. The assumptions about the causes are many and controversial. Various viruses (especially retroviruses), disorders of the immune and endocrine systems are blamed.

How does it manifest?

Typically, it occurs in a previously active person after a virus or other acute stress. Exhaustion and the various symptoms that persist (headache, sore throat, sensitive lymph nodes, myalgias, arthralgias, fevers…) lead to the belief that the virus persists. After weeks, sleep disorders, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and depression begin to appear. Excessive physical or psychological stress exacerbates the symptoms. Patients seek help from doctors of various specialties usually without satisfactory results.

How is the diagnosis made?

Diagnosis is difficult. It is essentially posed when other causes of chronic fatigue and psychiatric illness are ruled out. When they are excluded, then the major criterion is the feeling of fatigue that does not disappear after rest, limits the person’s ability to cope with daily activities and lasts at least 6 months. The associated symptoms that coexist are: headache, difficulty concentrating, sore throat, sensitive lymph nodes, allergies, abdominal algae-cramps, weight loss or gain, rashes, palpitations, chest pain.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment but treatment of the symptoms as they appear. For example, anti-inflammatory for diffuse pain, headaches and fevers, antihistamines for allergies and antidepressants to improve mood and sleep.

It is important for the patient to know and be informed about the condition, so as to avoid treatments that have not been shown to be helpful. It is also a good idea to follow practical lifestyle modification tips, such as patients following a mild exercise program and a small, non-alcoholic, coffee-free evening meal to help them sleep better. Behavior modification therapy to correct distorted ideas that lead to inaction and despair has been shown to have positive effects.

What is the prognosis?

Most patients with disabilities cope with their family, work and social responsibilities. They first abandon activities that require judgment and commitment to avoid the accompanying stress. A minority of patients often need help with daily activities.

In the long run and if not treated in time the disease can lead to isolation and passive resignation of the individual. Fortunately, the syndrome does not develop but on the contrary, many sufferers are slowly improving, finally recovering! So keep the stress away and give yourself the opportunity to rest and regain its strength!

Advises Ms. Peggy Giannikou, Orthopedic Surgeon

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