What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME?
When you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID), no matter what you do or have been doing, you are exhausted all the time.
CFS is often difficult to diagnose as there are so many symptoms that could be caused by it, but several other conditions could also cause it. Not everyone who has CFS will get all the symptoms or even the same as other people who have been diagnosed.
With so many people being tired these days, sufferers of CFS are often found to be doubting themselves and wondering if they are just unable to handle the pressure as well. This is most certainly not the case as sufferers experience a much wider range of symptoms and a much more intense feeling of fatigue and exhaustion.
Somewhere between 17- 24 million people have been diagnosed with CFS worldwide. There are probably many more cases that have not been diagnosed, in my opinion, due to many people with the condition just continuing with life and not seeing their doctor to start dealing with managing the condition.
If you find you are struggling to get by or find your energy levels to run out before everyone else’s perhaps it’s time to see if there might be something a little more serious causing the way you are feeling. Your doctor is the best to give you answers on this condition, but it is always good to know the symptoms.
CFS can affect anyone at any age but is more likely to affect women than men. It can come on suddenly or develop and get worse over time. Some people will be mildly affected and still able to carry out their daily tasks, some will be moderately affected and struggle to complete tasks but not be unable to, and some people with CFS will be so fatigued they will be unable to leave their house and possibly even their bed.
With so many variables and people being affected differently, there is no one answer solves it all solution. Your doctor will be able to assist with relieving the symptoms and working on a treatment plan specifically tailored to your unique experience with the condition.
Signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
With CFS being such a complex condition, the symptoms need can be broken down into so many different categories. To simplify, I will break it down into three categories:
Common symptoms, less common symptoms, and urgent symptoms (or medical emergencies). If you experience any of the urgent symptoms at any time contact a medical professional immediately.
Generally speaking, the most obvious and guaranteed symptom is fatigue. Not just feeling a little bit tired but so fatigued it is hard to move sometimes. Little tasks can take so much effort, and no matter how much sleep you get, it doesn’t seem to help. Some days it is impossible to even get out of bed and making dinner is an impossible task.
Common Symptoms and Signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The below signs and symptoms are common among people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
- Difficulty in concentrating, unable to stay attentive and having issues with memory.
- You are feeling like you are unable to recover from exercise for more than 24 hours.
- Unable to feel refreshed after sleeping.
- Various other symptoms related to sleeping disorders including but not limited to Insomnia, hypersomnia, sleep apnoea and fragmented sleep.
- Frequent sore throat.
- Tender or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or under the arms, most of the days over a year.
- Regular headaches that are abnormal to you.
- Inability to do regular daily activities for six months or more due to fatigue.
- Myalgia- muscle pains.
- Arthralgia- joint pains
Less Common Symptoms and Signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The below signs and symptoms are less common than the above common symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
- Feeling dizzy or weak.
- Night sweats or chills.
- Mood swings, irritability, hostility and anger.
- Blurred vision and sensitivity to light.
- Palpitations – racing heartrate.
- Sensitivity to foods or medications.
- Urinary problems.
- Flu-like symptoms.
- Gastrointestinal issues including constipation, diarrhea and nausea.
- Tinnitus – ringing in the ears.
- High or low body temperature.
- Lowered interest in sex.
- Loss of hair.
Urgent Symptoms and Signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – These are Medical Emergencies!
While the people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are with considerable risk to experience the following symptoms, regardless you have been diagnosed with the disease, the following conditions need to look into as medical emergencies. You should call 000 (or 911) and visit the nearest hospital.
- Chest pain
Seek Help for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
If you are experiencing many of the above symptoms, the best recommendation is to see a doctor. Due to the complex nature of CFS, doctors will need to put you on a personalized plan to help alleviate or at least lessen the symptoms.
Some people with CFS find themselves feeling better after a few weeks or months and stop the treatment, but then find themselves back in the cycle. It is important to monitor the symptoms as treatment continues.
The aim is for those suffering from CFS to be able to return to a normal lifestyle as in most cases they will have been struggling to complete everyday tasks such as cooking and going to work.
Other conditions that may also be associated with CFS include depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome and migraines.
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are frequent among people with CFS, and you can easily identify the type of attack if you read our previous article. Just follow the link.
It’s important to let your doctor know if treatment isn’t working or if the symptoms or severity of those symptoms change. CFS isn’t just being tired; it’s a life-altering condition if you ignored its early warning signs and symptoms, so the sooner you seek help, the sooner the condition can begin to become more bearable.
Make sure that you are aware that you may not have all the symptoms and that you may even be more prone to less common symptoms. You are the only one who can tell when things are out of the ordinary and when something needs to be done about it. Be mindful about yourself and keep your doctor updated frequently. And, make sure those families and loved ones around you are aware of the symptoms; also it will help them look out for you when you need it.
If you are a helper or a family member to someone with possibly experiencing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, know what to look for in them.
Remember, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of the conditions people are reluctant to seek help, and therefore underdiagnosed.