Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories — ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.
There's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may have to undergo a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on symptom relief.
Chronic fatigue syndrome has eight official symptoms, plus the central symptom that gives the condition its name:
When to see a doctor
Scientists don't know exactly what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. It may be a combination of factors that affect people who were born with a predisposition for the disorder. Some of the factors that have been studied include:
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic fatigue syndrome include:
Possible complications of chronic fatigue syndrome include:
Preparing for your appointment
It can be difficult to absorb all the information provided to you during an appointment, so you might want to arrange for a friend or family member to accompany you. Having two sets of ears at an appointment can be very helpful.
What you can do
For chronic fatigue syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
There's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Because the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can mimic so many other health problems, you may need patience while waiting for a diagnosis. Your doctor must rule out a number of other illnesses before diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome. These may include:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on symptom relief.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These self-care steps may be helpful:
Many alternative therapies have been promoted for chronic fatigue syndrome. It's difficult to determine whether these therapies actually work, partly because the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome often are linked to mood and can vary from day to day.
Pain associated with chronic fatigue syndrome may be helped by:
Coping and support
The experience of chronic fatigue syndrome varies from person to person. For many people, however, the symptoms are more bothersome early in the course of the illness and then gradually decrease. Emotional support and counseling may help you and your loved ones deal with the uncertainties and restrictions of chronic fatigue syndrome.
You may find it therapeutic to join a support group and meet other people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Support groups aren't for everyone, and you may find that a support group adds to your stress rather than relieving it. Experiment and use your own judgment to determine what's best for you.
Last Updated: 2011-06-18
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