Introduction to CFS
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What is CFS?
The name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) refers to a pattern of symptoms
described below. In strict medical terms, it can't be called a disease
because there's no medical test that can link all cases (like the HIV
test does in AIDS). For our purposes, we will assume CFS is
one illness because so many cases are so similar.
There are four main categories of symptoms in CFS:
Some cases of CFS start gradually, but the majority start suddenly, often triggered by the flu or some other illness. People with CFS may get better after a few years or many years or may not get better at all. No one is sure whether anybody is truly cured or whether their illness has just subsided enough for them to live a more normal life.
- Fatigue: People with CFS experience profound, overwhelming exhaustion, which gets worse after exertion and can never be fully relieved by sleep.
- Pain: Pain in CFS includes muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, stomach aches, pain in lymph nodes, and sore throats.
- Cognitive and Neurological Problems:
- Cognitive problems: People with CFS have trouble remembering words, names, and places, find it hard to concentrate, and have trouble thinking straight.
- Neurological problems: Neurological problems include dizziness and light-headedness, especially when standing up quickly.
- Sensitivities: People with CFS tend to be sensitive to light, sound, and some chemicals and foods.
Levels of Activity
Some people are more limited than others. The sickest are housebound, while some people are self-reliant, and some are able to work or attend school. Some people with CFS can push themselves to do extraordinary things but feel much worse afterward.
Diagnosing CFS is very difficult. There is no one test for CFS, so doctors must rely on their experience and intuition. However, some doctors are not familiar with CFS and some refuse to diagnose it. Though the process of getting diagnosed is difficult, most people diagnosed report they felt relieved because they could focus on getting better.
Studies estimate that there are between 75 and 420 cases per 100,000 adults in the U.S. This comes to between 200,000 and 1,000,000 adults with CFS. Between 60% and 85% of these people are women. Adolescents and children also get CFS, possibly less often than adults.
Nobody knows what causes CFS. Many causes are being considered by researchers, but none of them can explain all aspects of the illness.
Related Illnesses There are some illnesses so similar to CFS
that it is hard to distinguish between them. People with Fibromyalgia
Syndrome (FMS) have muscle pain and sleep disturbances. Those with
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) are sensitive to chemicals and
have sleep disturbances. Many veterans with Gulf War Illness (GWI)
have symptoms almost identical to CFS.
This subsection, geared toward those who have CFS, discusses many
aspects of living many with CFS: maintaining a good attitude toward
getting healthy, practical suggestions, help dealing with people, and
finding the right medical treatments.
On to Symptoms