Chronic fatigue syndrome (or CFS) also known as Myalgic Encephalopathy (or ME) makes people with this medical condition totally exhausted, sometimes leading to a deep depression; CFS/ME also a leading cause for cardiovascular and mental disorders.
Do you want to know why the world is well aware of CFS today? Simply, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is in the rise and the world’s leading welfare authorities have just started realizing the effect of CFS on people. Keep in mind, at least 6 months are normally required to confirm the diagnosis.
So, let’s explain the major symptoms to understand what is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS / ME) really is and also how its fit into the category of disability from world’s leading welfare systems like Australia, Canada, UK and USA.
Firstly, let’s explore the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which you should be aware of.
Most Common Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
How do patients with CFS feel? The early signs of CFS / ME are below.
- Fatigue, or excessive tiredness with no obvious cause for at least 6 months; you can’t get rid of your tiredness even by taking a nap or a long vacation.
- Continuous muscle and joint pain; they don’t get better after a relaxation; the hallmark of CFS is supposed to be post-exertion malaise – performing minimal physical exercises will not make you feel any better.
- Flu-like signs – you may suffer from a sore throat or swollen glands.
- Intolerance to irritants – light, noise, unusual smell can make your weakness worse; sometimes, the food and alcohol are also things patients with CFS tend to avoid.
- Psychological issues – enormous, recurrent panic attacks
and depression; insomnia; take into account it doesn’t depend on the weather or personal support or welfare you receive; so, no reason to ignore it.
- Bad memory and concentration (so-called “brain fog”) – you can’t put the thoughts in the right order; moreover, it increases the irritating levels, such patients are defined as “always in a bad mood for no reason”.
Tip: Other Signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was discussed before.
Tip: If you get headaches in addition to weakness, be aware of Headache Triggers.
Tip: Did you know low and high blood sugar can cause lethargy, fatigue and dizziness, too?
What makes their life even harder when you fight with CFS?
These patients are not welcome in the world and easily being misunderstood as they immensely fail from the regular rat race, where everyone tries to reach a career goal, create a family, move abroad, be successful, etc.
These people are simply misunderstood, and the world around them expect them to will keep telling them “just take some rest, and you’ll be fine” – that’s what they hear. Even more, old-school doctors refuse to see a problem.
How was your shopping? You don’t mind riding your daughter to a dance class right? For patients with CFS, the simplest actions like these become challenges. As some say: “I need the rest of my energy and planning ability to go out with a friend and take a coffee. You probably think it’s so effortless while seeing me from the outside”.
CFS happens to occur to completely different individuals. You may run a small confectionery, be a graduate student or play in a national football league; it’s only a question of “How?” and “When” it may develop.
Tip: Watch for Stress Symptoms Specific to Men, and Women.
Tip: If you Struggle to Sleep Through the Night, be aware of other causes of insomnia.
CFS has a Few More Alternatives Names
Some of the common terms which overlap with CFS-like conditions are below.
Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME)
ME may refer to a version of CFS where muscle and joint pain symptoms are related to neurological problems. It may also be referred to as fibromyalgia (chronic pain with no explanation, combined with stiffness and mental fog).
Note, ME is a serious disease, not a “diagnosis of exclusion” and something to be lightly taken.
Tip: This article explains All the Causes of Leg Pain depending on the location of pain, time of pain and pain association.
Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS)
PVFS has a concrete cause – a viral disease. So, before going to a hospital, make a list of recent illnesses you’ve suffered from. It’s not hard to detect such condition, while CFS is a tough case.
Can you imagine how many guidelines a doctor should check before making a similar conclusion? For example, recurrent sore throat vs PVFS. It is easy for your doctor to slip the diagnosis during his 15 min chat.
Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)
CFIDS includes possible autoimmune disorders when your own immunity takes action against your body. There are still many studies and unexplained statements, but the cause stays simple – blood cells don’t recognize normal and healthy tissue.
Let’s look into more details to understand what really causes the body system to make you so tired in the case of CFS.
Biological Response? Or What Actually Happens in CFS?
Tiredness is an outcome of a lack of energy. Same with your body cells – CFS makes them stop producing and accumulating energy, leading to a lousy metabolism.
Small parts in a body cell, called “mitochondria” are responsible for the molecular forms of energy delivered in time. One of the hypotheses says their functioning is very poor during a CFS. That’s why you can’t do anything by yourself to relive the signs; and that’s why they are so complicated, damaging many anatomic systems over the time.
The still unproven but solid theory is about an overactive alarm system. It happens, when your immunity fights against healthy cells, not the infectious agents. After passing a barrier directly to the brain, it may lead to first symptoms of a disorder – a mental or psychiatric disorder.
Severity Stages of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
As studies showed, CFS may be progressed through 3 stages of severity.
1. Mild CFS
You may limit a leisure activity, but still be okay with regular daily tasks, like household, day-time study or a job.
2. Moderate CFS
At this stage, motivation to move becomes a problem. You prefer to spend more time at home and find such things like shopping really hard; proper diagnosis is really important here to prevent serious consequences and disease progression.
3. Severe CFS
Most patients start to look for a wheelchair and additional help to move. They can’t live alone anymore, because physical and mental troubles are in progress. Every morning they feel unable to leave the bed and even to make breakfast.
Tip: Did you know some symptoms of CFS overlaps with the High Blood Pressure Symptoms?
When to See the Doctor?
Don’t misjudge CFS as AIDS or HIV, where you may prefer to stay anonymous; it’s not contagious! So, be open and communicative about your symptoms with family and your doctor.
Remember, at the very beginning, patients don’t look bad; so before seeing a GP or a family doctor think carefully of the signs.
Being partying for a few days will make you sick; the same with some extra night shifts at work – take a few more days to restore, and you’ll be okay.
Also, it’s about unexplained muscle pain. You may stop working out when something goes wrong and look at your lifestyle from the other perspective. As a premeditative – go to a massage specialist or see a rheumatologist (if you are with a bad joints history).
What I meant in the above said – find the reasons to exclude other diseases which may be causing you CFS-like symptoms.
It won’t take years to check yourself; before consultation about a CFS, you need to provide a list of specialists you’ve already seen. To save time for you and the doctor, it’s best to maintain a daily journal.
A final point – don’t listen to friends or a family who are not helpful or not available to see you and listen to you. They will mostly tell you to look good and blame you that you are ‘lazy’. But if extreme tiredness is chasing you for months, plan a doctor’s appointment.
Tip: Although some believe it does, remember the science has not proven that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy helps in the treatment of CFS.
History and Research Basis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
In 1681 Thomas Sydenham, a father of English medicine, described a first unique case of CFS, though many people think it was far earlier, like in the ancient Babylon times. Anyway, doctors assumed it was neurasthenia (weakness or neural processes) or Beard’s disease.
A more modern outbreak on a fatigue syndrome’s path happened in 1934 at Los Angeles County General Hospital. But a “disease of thousand names” stayed undefined for more than 100 years. As a summary of her extensive work, Dr Elizabeth G. Dowsett established a number of criteria for CFS on the onset of third millennia. I think that was a big moment; finally, CFS was considered as a serious disease.
Men vs Women
Nowadays, a condition already affected almost 1 million people in the USA; women in their 40s and 50s are admitted to have a higher prevalence than men of the same age.
The study conducted at Columbia University‘s Mailman School of Public Health in New York in 2017 showed there is a difference between a classical variant of CFS and the atypical one. For example, encephalitis (brain tissue inflammation) more often leads to atypical CFS. These patients are sensitive to many neurological disorders, and their GP must consider a fatigue syndrome as a possible consequence.
Given the rising awareness and popularity of CFS by now most advanced welfare system recognize the disease as a disability. Let’s look at Australia, Canada, UK and USA welfare systems which recognized CFS as a potentially eligible disease for a disability claim or pension.
Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a Disability?
Below is the summary of the types of social benefits available depending on the country you live in and type of evidence you have to support a disability claim as a result of CFS.
|Country||Authority||Your Symptoms (Evidence for symptoms)||Type of benefit||Tips|
|Australia||Australian Government Department of Human Services||Evidence the chronic fatigue syndrome prevents you from working for at least the next 2 years
Eligible according to your family income and assets test
|Disability Support Pension (DSP)||Medical evidence plays a large role in the success of your application.
Keep a daily journal.
If the application is refused, consult a lawyer specialized in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
|Canada||Government of Canada – Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
Disability insurance (LDI)
Canada Revenue Agency (DTC)
|doctor’s diagnosis confirming Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Evidence for your disability is severe and chronic not allowing you to be employed (CPP)
|Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits
long-term disability insurance benefits (LDI) – cover income for sick days from work.
Disability Tax Credit (DTC)
|If the claim is refused, appeal through an expert lawyer in the type of claim was refused.|
|UK||Government of UK – Disability Service Centre||Both children and adults can apply.||Disability Living Allowance (DLA) / Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
|If the claim is refused, appeal through an expert lawyer in the type of claim was refused.|
|USA||Social Security Administration||lymph nodes swelling or tenderness||medical-vocational allowance or Social Security disability benefits||Hire an attorney specialized in disability claims
Refer to Blue Book for more details.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can be defined as a severe problem in the XXI century. What matters most – doctors still want to avoid it and may misdiagnose it.
You should know the symptoms, which usually accompany a fatigue syndrome: non-relievable tiredness, muscle pain with no explanation and a possible memory loss as noted above. Don’t hesitate to contact a GP or family doctor, when the other possible reasons are excluded.
Remember to get yourself prepared as well. It means recalling all the past diseases you’ve been suffered from (especially the infectious and psychiatrical ones, which may be a trigger).
The problem is challenging, but the consequences depend on you and your support network. Don’t be afraid to seek support from a lawyer before you claim the welfare system or an insurer.