Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
– a medical condition of unknown cause, with fever, aching, and prolonged tiredness and depression, typically occurring after a viral infection
-a viral disease of the immune system, usually characterised by debilitating fatigue and flu-like symptoms
Hopefully you will have read my previous post on CFS and are now asking yourself ‘So what is CFS?’. Well, after much controversy and research, what CFS is can’t fully be known. How you get it and how it is cured is also not fully known. There has however been significant progress recently and CFS is now recognised as a disease (read about that in this NPR article). Some people have argued that it stems from physical conditions, others physiological and still others psychological. However,current opinion is now moving towards the likelihood of CFS resulting from an interplay of all of these and is very likely a made up of many of symptoms and conditions.
It is estimated that around 25,000 people in the UK suffer with CFS and not all cases are the same in severity. The following will give you an idea of the varying degrees of CFS.
Mild – you’re able to care for yourself, but might need time off work to rest
Moderate – you may have reduced mobility, and your symptoms can vary; you may also have disturbed sleep patterns and need to sleep in the afternoon
Severe – you’re able to carry out minimal daily tasks, such as brushing your teeth, but have significantly reduced mobility and may also have difficulty concentrating
But why does it happen?
Again there are a few different perspectives on this:
-a virus or bacterial infection
-immune system problems
-an imbalance of hormones
-psychiatric problems, such as stress and emotional trauma
As I touched on above, I’d say, from my own experience and story that it is quite likely a mixture of a number conditions interrelating and affecting each other.
Symptoms range from malaise after exertion, unrefreshing sleep, widespread muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headaches, cognitive difficulties, muscle weakness, intolerance to light, sound and smells, digestive issues, food intolerance’s, painful and slightly swollen lymph nodes, depression, loss of memory and concentration.
So how do I know if I have it?
A general rule for most health care professionals seems to be that you must have had persisting fatigue for at least 6 months and have at least 4 of the considered signs and symptoms:
– Loss of memory or concentration
– Sore throat
– Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
– Unexplained muscle pain
– Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
– Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
– Unrefreshing sleep
-Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
It seems a little unfair that people should have to wait up to 6 months before even being considered that they may have CFS. However, during this time tests can be carried out which doctors want to rule out. Such as sleep apnea, insomnia, anemia, diabetes, hypothyroidism, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
So how do I treat it?
Consistent with the idea that what CFS is and how it is caused cannot at the moment be fully understood, treatment cannot conclusively be determined and again,there is controversy. Treatment types vary from physical to psychological and physiological, such as graded exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling. Medication is offered in the form of anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Personally, I only partook in counselling as a form of treatment. It seems that the treatment needed is just as unique and specific to the individual as to the way they developed CFS in the first place. Which, although frustrating to our rational minds, means that we all have hope for recovery as discovering our treatment is part of the journey of our recovery.
I personally found that a mixture of counselling, meditation, resting, pacing myself, nutrition, reducing my exercise, massage, seasons of acupuncture and a strong community helped me immensely. Holistic nutritionists and chiropractors were particularly helpful in getting my body physically back on track whilst always reminding me to go easy on myself and keep going with the treatment.
There simply is just not one way to treat CFS, I tried many routes before I found one which seemed to really get to the root. The key is to really commit to the process and the journey as your body takes time to heal and restore itself, but given the right conditions it will do just that. Does everyone recover from CFS? I don’t know. Do I believe everyone can get to a manageable state? I like to think so. Each person’s journey and recovery is individual and the key is to persist until you sense your body responding to the treatments you are trying. It’s not how often we fall but how often we get back up again.