What is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)? mono

CFS is a complex disorder that leaves patients feeling overwhelmingly fatigued even with plenty of bed rest.  Symptoms are typically worse after physical or mental exertion.  People with CFS normally have low activity levels.  There are three criteria that need to be met to qualify as CFS:

  1. A person has had severe fatigue for at least 6 months, and it is not due to exertion or medical conditions.
  2. The fatigue interferes with day-to-day life.
  3. A patient has 4 or more of the following symptoms:
  • Post-exertion malaise for 24 hours or more
  • Sleep that does not cure fatigue
  • Difficulty with concentration or short-term memory
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain, swelling, or redness
  • Headaches
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Sore throat

What causes CFS?

Doctors have not yet determined what causes CFS.  There are some triggers that may influence the condition:

  • Infections
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Very low blood pressure – can cause fainting
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Stress that affects the HPA axis

What are the symptoms of CFS?

The main symptom of CFS is intense, unexplained fatigue that is not improved by sleep and is worse after exertion.  It normally causes a major decline in activity.  Patients also must have 4 or more of the symptoms listed below to be diagnosed with CFS:

  • Post-exertion malaise for 24 hours or more
  • Sleep that does not cure fatigue
  • Difficulty with concentration or short-term memory
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain, swelling, or redness
  • Headaches
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Sore throat

Symptoms may vary and be on-and-off for 6 months or more.  Other symptoms associated with the disease include irritable bowel syndrome, depression, other psychological problems, chills, night sweats, dizziness, fainting, allergies, and others.

How is CFS diagnosed?

CFS is diagnosed after ruling out other illnesses, because there is no medical test to diagnose it.  Doctors will take a detailed medical history and perform a variety of tests to rule out other illnesses.  If a patient does not have at least 4 of the symptoms listed above, idiopathic fatigue may be diagnosed.

How is CFS treated?

There is no treatment for CFS, but it can be managed by:

  • Monitoring health and reporting changes to your doctor
  • Working with a team of doctors, such as rehab specialists, mental health professionals, and physical exercise therapists to create a treatment plan

For more information on CFS, click here.