Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Report
Statistics show that CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is three times more prevalent in women, and it seems to range from young adults in their twenties to individuals in their fifties. While it is a condition that some can appear to recover from spontaneously, it is possible for it to return throughout their lives in conjunction with some other illness or during low periods when one is under great stress.
For someone suffering from this condition, however, there is not only the seemingly endless struggle to cope and maintain some sort of quality of life - there is also enduring the history of controversy that surrounds it.
For decades this controversy has been over the lack of many professionals in the medical community in recognizing CFS as a very real condition. As a result, sufferers have had to face a nearly constant resistance to receiving adequate and/or focused treatment.
The nature of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is that many of it's symptoms mimic those of the flu or similar viral infections. In the past, it has been mistaken for other disorders. Because routine tests may not find any underlying problems initially, it has been misdiagnosed as such conditions as depression, hypochondria, and just basically a psychosomatic illness. It is one thing to struggle to cope with a mysterious disease - it is quite another to have to face down skeptics who suspect that you just might be imagining it, or worse, making it up.
This contentious issue has divided many in the medical community to the point where some insist that research funds should not only go to finding a physiological cause but also psychological and psychosocial aspects as well.
Over time there has fortunately been greater recognition of the existence of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and of it's widespread growth worldwide. But the etiology (the study of the causation of a disease or medical condition) still remains lacking. Without having this basic understanding of underlying causes the medical profession is often in dispute; not only how to diagnose the condition, but also how to effectively go about treating it.
As a result, sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have often sought help from alternative sources. As with any condition or disease there is also the factor that each individual is unique, and how they manifest their condition and respond to different treatments will be unique as well. The resulting data of therapy and treatment can be daunting to assess, making the decision to choose to follow any particular course difficult.
However, despite these challenges there are people and organizations out there who care. They, or someone they care deeply about, may have suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and they understand the great challenges involved with this condition. In the United States alone, it is thought that one in 250 people is being affected by this condition. If you or someone you know is currently enduring this illness, it is good to know that you can find the knowledge and support you need to cope, and find the quality of life that everyone deserves.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Possible Causes
In discussing the causes and symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome it is important to bear in mind that so much is still not understood about this complex condition. The symptoms may present themselves differently in each individual, and the cause of their illness may vary substantially from that of another.
While profound exhaustion is truly the hallmark of this illness it also affects so much of the body's basic organisms. It has been described by one leading expert as “An injury to the software of the human body.” This was a reference to two vital aspects of our bodies - the immune system and the nervous system.
What brings about this initial damage or injury is not a known fact. Some experts suspect that it may be linked to the Epstein-Barr virus which is a part of the herpes virus family that is also the cause of mononucleosis.
This consensus is based on the fact that some people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have been found to have high levels of antibodies of this virus in their blood. As well, a good number of CFS sufferers can date the start of their symptoms with the coinciding of a viral infection. However, there has been no conclusive connection made scientifically between EBV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What is also true is that many individuals have developed chronic fatigue without having any known preceding infections. So research has led experts in a variety of other directions. Some of the suggested causes include a possible defect in the mechanisms that the body uses to regulate it's blood pressure, an immune system breakdown, anemia, hypothyroidism, chronic mercury poisoning from fillings, hypoglycemia, chronic sleep issues, or an infection caused by the fungus candida albicans.
The list is extensive. The muscle disorder fibromyalgia seems to have a connection with many people who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as well.
As with many diseases or conditions, it is thought that genetic factors may play a role and make someone more susceptible to developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There is also a possibility that environmental toxins and other invasive factors could weaken the immune system to the point of making an individual vulnerable.
It is suspected that for some people certain traumas to the body such as a head injury or surgery could be a trigger to starting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At issue for others could be the use of certain medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers (which are used to treat cardiac arrhythmias), benzodiazapines (which can be used to slow down the body's nervous system) or an over use of antibiotics - any of which might act as a factor in instigating chronic fatigue.
Ultimately, it may not be any one single factor that is the main cause. It may possibly be a certain combination of events and/or combined illnesses or infections that proves to be the factors behind an individual developing chronic fatigue.
While the specific cause may remain a current mystery , what does seem to be a given, is that extra physical or emotional stress seems to make the condition worse. Over an extended length of time this can result in serious damage being done to person's immune system. While it is never really 'cured' some people can experience almost spontaneous recoveries. But once having had it, it can recur again in conjunction with another illness or at low times during periods of great stress.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Symptoms
As it's name suggests, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is marked by exhaustion. A fatigue so deep and debilitating that it is not relieved by rest - no matter how much one tries. This is not a fatigue that is the result of ongoing exertion. And the person who is suffering from it has had a marked reduction in normal activity of at least fifty percent.
Whether the fatigue has manifested itself suddenly or gradually, when someone becomes a victim to it, it can last from six months to a number of years. In many incidents it coincides with an another illness that could be respiratory in nature or gastrointestinal. It may follow an acute infection that has flu like symptoms. It has been found that a severe trauma - whether it be physical as in the case of an injury or surgery or emotional such as in the loss of a loved one - can be a trigger for this syndrome.
With the ongoing severe fatigue a number of other symptoms will be evidenced. Among these are the following:
An increasing inability to concentrate. Some have described this as mental fogginess. Perhaps finding it hard to think of the proper words to use. A sufferer may also find that their short term memory is being affected. That their ability to concentrate for any length of time becomes difficult. Others may have some spatial disorientation and as a result feel clumsy and unsteady on their feet.
There can be a significant amount of pain in the muscles and joints of someone suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The joint pain will not have the redness and swelling that is the case with arthritis though. It may also prove to be transitory in nature. There can be a feeling of muscle weakness and 'twitchiness'.
Headaches may occur. If the individual normally suffers from headaches they may notice that these ones are different in nature, severity and duration from what they are used to.
There can be nerve and skin sensitivity that can be described as painful. Some have described feeling pain in their eyes, jaw and bones. Sore throats and swollen and painful lymph nodes are an issue. For others they have remarked on chest pain and having a shortness of breath.
Getting sufficient and proper sleep is yet another dysfunction that comes with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Also, the way that their sleep is affected may vary in that the length of deep sleep may be cut short or interrupted, breathing rhythms may be off or vivid disturbing dreams may cause unrest.
Certain neuroendocrine functions (such as our metabolism) may be affected and the CFS sufferer may experience fluctuations in their body temperature - going between feverish and cold. They may find they have a decreased tolerance of extremes in environmental temperatures. There may be digestive disturbances in that they find a change in their appetite which in turn could translate into an unusual gain or loss of weight. In addition these gastrointestinal problems may include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea.
While this list covers some of the main symptoms that may occur with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome it is always good to keep in mind that each individual will be a unique case. Since some of these health problems could be a possible manifestation of a different underlying problem it is important to communicate with your health care provider anything that causes you specific concern.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Finding a Diagnosis
For individuals who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome it can be a challenge in successfully having their condition diagnosed. The basic profile of this condition is that they suffer from unrelenting mental and physical fatigue. Along with that fatigue come a number of symptoms that can increase their overall discomfort in a variety of ways.
This is without a doubt a debilitating disease and many who suffer from it have expressed their frustration that, while technically accurate, the name does not quite do justice to the seriousness of it. In some way they feel it trivializes what they are experiencing. Because some early diagnoses classified this condition as a 'psychological disorder' there was the added stigma of the idea that the disease was the result of some hidden mental and emotional issues.
While the medical community has come to understand that this is a serious physiological condition there still remains a degree of difficulty in determining that CFS is the diagnosis. While taxing the patience of the sufferer, it is in part understandable, in that the fatigue and the other symptoms associated with CFS are also common to many other illnesses.
Added to that is the problem that there is as yet no laboratory test that can produce a biomarker that would distinctly indicate Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. On top of which the illness manifests itself differently with each individual. The degree of severity and the fluctuations in its course not being the same for any two people.
Unfortunately this means that it may take a length of time to eliminate, first of all, the possibility that another serious condition is the underlying problem. This will require that the doctor obtain a personal medical history. If the patient has been enduring six or more months (consecutively) of deep, unrelenting fatigue along with some other issues that may include flu like symptoms and cognitive problems - the initial impression may indicate the possibility of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
However, he will of necessity need to run a variety of tests to determine the state of health of the major bodily systems to be sure that there isn't another hidden health issue such as a possible auto-immune disease or thyroid problem.
In diagnosing the possibility of CFS, a doctor will need to know if the fatigue experienced is unaffected by any efforts at rest. He will also look for other symptoms that usually accompany Chronic Fatigue Syndrome such as muscle and joint pain (without any redness or inflammation), muscle weakness, sleep disorders, unusual headaches, stomach problems, chronic sore throats, tender lymph nodes, mental fogginess and other cognitive and memory issues. There are currently some resources in the form of extensive questionnaires that may help a doctor to narrow the focus of his search.
Due to the fact that there is still so much unknown about this disease and how to treat it, it may prove to be a tense time as sufferers may feel that they are not being believed and/or their treatment does not seem to be seeing quick results. It can also be frustrating for any doctor or health care provider who is trying to bring relief.
As is so often the case, a patient will need to be as proactive as possible in analyzing his or her own situation and monitoring what is working and what isn't. At the same time it is important to try and maintain a calm and open communication with others. There is a great deal of comfort to be had and knowledge to be gained in reading about others who have struggled with this illness as well and regained their health.
Alternative Treatments For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
When suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the first challenge, of course, is to get a definitive diagnosis. Because so little is still not understood about this illness this may require a length of time and some patience. Then, the next challenge, is to find effective treatment.
Since the medical community remains uncertain and sometimes at odds as to the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome there can be a variety of approaches to treatment. It may require a great deal of time and patience as this can at times result in a lot of trial and error. Keep in mind that most doctors are sincere in their desire to find a solution, but this particular illness still holds so much mystery.
Understandably, if you or someone you are caring for is currently struggling to cope with this debilitating illness you are no doubt now actively searching for alternative approaches.
While trying to cope with a life routine that in all likelihood has been dramatically altered, it may prove taxing to face the uncertainties that surround finding a solution. So if you, or some you care for, is currently in this situation, it may be advisable to look into finding out if there are health care providers in your area that have 'specific' experience in treating and helping others to manage this illness.
Someone who understands the complexity of this particular syndrome and who will perhaps be able to provide the extra compassion and insight that can go a long ways in relieving stress and giving practical suggestions that really work.
Since over all fatigue is suggestive of a depletion of bodily resources it is tempting for sufferers to seek out a variety of natural products to find a solution. While it makes sense to work to keep up a healthy regime it is important to keep in mind that even 'natural' solutions can carry a very real impact when interacting with other medicines that may have been prescribed by the doctor.
So it is important to try and coordinate with your doctor and inquire of him or your pharmacist if any remedies you are trying out may react negatively with current medications.
As with any type of illness, a holistic approach has the benefit of strengthening the body's immune system and a person's ability to combat their condition.
With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the body seems to experience a variety of problems in addition to the fatigue - such as sleep disorders, sore throats, stomach issues, muscle and joint pains. Many individuals have found some over all relief in addressing each of these problems separately.
For example, a person may try to improve their sleep by finding supplements that help relax the nerves. Or they may find relief in massage or acupuncture treatments. They may find that natural products like zinc lozenges or a few drops of golden seal extract help to fight or control infections that cause sore throats.
There is no doubt that many people will attest to finding the help they needed in searching out an alternative approach to coping with an illness - no matter what that the illness. Each individual will need to research as much as possible any claims made in this area, because as it usually happens the scientific community does not often provide support for these remedies.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Natural Products
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an illness that manifests itself not only with a debilitating fatigue but with a number of other symptoms that can mimic the conditions of other illnesses. Quite often a health care provider will seek to address these varying issues so that not only will the patient find relief in these areas but as well achieve an over all improvement in their health and well being.
As always, with any suggestions that concern alternative treatments, it is important that an individual coordinate their regime with their doctor. While most natural products do not carry harmful side effects they may not always interact well with other medicines. That being said, suggestions to help people suffering from CFS have included the following:
*Acidophilus is recommended to help provide good bacteria to the digestive system. This good bacteria is essential to fighting candida infections. It has been noted that very often chronic fatigue and candidiasis will occur at the same time.
*Lecithin can be used to promote energy and to build up the immune system.
*Malic acid is linked to the production of energy in many cells of the body such as in the muscles.
*Magnesium - An essential element to maintain good health for everyone and which has shown up as a deficiency in many who suffer from CFS.
*Vitamin A and Vitamin E - These have proven to be a powerful protectors of body cells as they find and scavenge free radicals. They work to build the natural immune system to keep fighting invasive viruses.
*Vitamin C- Well known to have a proven powerful antiviral effect. It can also help boost a person's energy level. This is a wonderful vitamin that is absolutely essential to excellent health.
*Vitamin B complex - The B vitamins can help with energy levels (we're all acquainted with B12 in this area) They can also help boost normal brain functions - as quite often CFS sufferers experience a change in their ability to concentrate, describing it sometimes as 'mental fogginess'. And they can really assist in building our nerve force. While logically CFS sufferers will feel stress with their illness, added stress will only work to worsen the symptoms.
*Dimethylglycine is an amino acid that can help destroy free radicals and works to enhance how the body cells use oxygen.
*Garlic - Never to be underestimated, garlic is wonderful for destroying parasites and for improving the body's immune system. It can also promote energy. And if someone is uncomfortable eating it naturally, there are tablets that health food stores provide that eliminate the problem of odor.
*Maitake Mushrooms - These wonderful mushrooms are not only very tasty, they are also prized for their medicinal value. They work to normalize the body's immune function and can help the body adapt to stress.
These are but a few of the natural remedies that have been suggested to help fight infections, boost and normalize the immune system and stimulate energy. Not everyone will respond in equal measure to these products, but it helps to provide an idea of how there are many natural resources that are available to CFS sufferers.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Medical Treatments and Therapies
As knowledge grows in the medical community about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so do the different approaches developed to help sufferers to cope and find relief. Ultimately it would be wonderful if there was one single treatment that would result in a cure. Unfortunately for many there is the possibility that even with the treatments available they may never fully recover from this condition.
Other individuals have had the experience of recovering in an almost spontaneous fashion. Even with these people however, there exists the possibility that the illness will recur, especially in conjunction with another serious illness or perhaps during a low, stressful time in their lives.
Doctors and other health care professionals may choose an approach to treatment that combines prescription drugs, physical and emotional therapies and alternative medicine. As each case will present itself in a unique fashion the first thing will be to establish with the patient what symptoms associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are causing them the greatest distress.
Some of the primary symptoms apart from the deep fatigue are - sleep disorders, muscle and joint pain, headaches, an inability to concentrate properly, gastrointestinal issues, sore throats, depression and allergies. The doctor will try to tailor the health management plan according to what the patient feels are causing the most disruptive or disabling problems in their life.
If the prescription medicines are applied it is important to note that many CFS sufferers tend to be sensitive to medications. In particular - sedatives. So to begin, the doctor may prescribe lower dosages to see how the patient will react and go from there. Because all medicine comes with some side effects it is important for both doctor and patient to monitor their reaction so that the already existing health issues are not exacerbated.
The doctor may recommend certain medicines such as - tricyclic antidepressants because they work to alleviate pain, sleep and mood issues and that by keeping the prescription simpler it means less drugs to treat more symptoms with hopefully less overall side effects.
In this regard it has been remarked that medicines that are used as stimulants to help with cognitive issues should follow a mild dosage. Stronger stimulants have been found to activate a push - crash cycle in which the patient can suffer a relapse in their problem.
The patient and doctor may find that they can work together to incorporate additional natural remedies, but again, it is good to keep in mind that not all natural remedies will be suited to your management plan.
Some may even aggravate the situation as more often than not CFS sufferers are more highly sensitive to particular foods and chemicals. This is not to say that they can not help. It just means that there should be some thoughtful consideration given to any suggested treatment before proceeding.
Some additional therapies that have been a part of the successful treatment design are: gentle massages, biofeedback programs, deep breathing techniques, aquatic therapy, Yoga, Tai Chi, and Meditation.
What it really comes down to is the issue that no one is certain what the primary cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is. So for now it means that your doctor will focus mainly on treating the symptoms that come with it. Your treatment will match your specific needs. It is hoped that in time, with proper care, your body's defenses will be able to fight back.
Suggestions For Sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The person suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is faced with a great challenge to carry on despite the fact that there may be no immediate answer to their problem on the horizon. They may be experiencing many frustrations that come from not being able to meet perhaps, even the most basic needs of their existence. Coupled with this is the possibility that nothing in their appearance may clearly show the devastating effects of this illness. And unfortunately this may cause some to doubt their pain.
One very important practical step that they can do is to reach out to others who are experiencing the same situation. It is vital to know that they are not alone in fighting this debilitating illness. Over the past decade more support groups have been created that can help the person with CFS find the compassion they may need to carry on and cope with the negative feelings that naturally arise.
Another step is to take a close look at their lifestyle and environment. These are areas over which they may be able to exercise some control in order to improve their chances of getting better.
Some recommendations that may prove helpful are as follows:
Try to avoid too many processed foods and foods that are high in additives. CFS patients have an increased sensitivity to food allergies and chemicals. By avoiding these things they give their body a chance to use its resources to strengthen its own immune system.
Try to follow a well balanced diet that includes as many raw foods and juices that are as fresh as possible. Up to fifty percent has been suggested. This is in order to maximize the amount of nutrients available in good food - before it gets cooked or processed away. This diet should include other wonderful foods such as whole grains, seeds, and raw nuts that provide essential nutrients. Other great proteins can include quality deep cold water fish that can also supply essential fats that are healthful for the body.
Drink plenty of water. It has often been recommended that we drink eight - eight ounce glasses a day. As we have come to know - water flushes out unwanted toxins, but it can also work to help reduce muscle pain.
Keep your digestive system healthy by trying to have daily bowel movements. This means getting sufficient water working together with enough fiber added to the diet each day. Some people find that they have benefited by an occasional enema as well. The goal, as always, is to keep toxins from building in the body and allowing the good things being taken in to do their healing.
Work at building a good sleep and rest pattern. This can be a challenge for people with CFS even though they are fighting a constant fatigue. A natural sleep regulating hormone called - melatonin- can be taken in a supplement form, two hours or less before bed time. Melatonin is an essential, normally naturally occurring hormone that can help one get a sound and restful sleep. Some healthful teas, such as kombucha tea, have also helped some patients feel as though they have some new energy during the day.
And learning to accept and work within your present limitations without constantly dwelling on what you are unable to do can help promote a level of inner peace needed to keep coping with your circumstances and encouraging your body to heal.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is still most definitely a mysterious illness. The medical community is unable to pinpoint a single cause. It can appear gradually - slowly sapping your strength or it can appear suddenly - turning your world upside down. Then - at times - it disappears just as suddenly.
You are left wondering - “What did I do to deserve this?” Maybe you start to question various aspects of your life that make you feel guilty for having succumbed to the illness. Perhaps all of your efforts to get better keep ending in a road block. Eventually you feel like you have become a burden to those closest to you - unable to handle even some of the smallest tasks or to even get up out of bed.
To complicate issues, it is a disease that seems almost invisible. You may appear 'normal' on the outside - you just aren't the same on the inside. Friends, relatives and work associates may have trouble understanding what you are going through. And you may feel that deep down some are thinking that you're just making it up.
How do you cope with all of these emotions - in addition to - this debilitating fatigue and a host of other physical aches and pains? Well, you begin by understanding that contracting an illness such as CFS is not a matter of fault. Unfortunately, it just happens. And it can happen to anyone.
You are still you. Only now you are faced with a big challenge. What resources are available to you to first of all cope and then triumph over this condition? The first step is to arm yourself with as much knowledge of this disease as you can. You will also need to consult with a doctor who can run the necessary tests that first of all eliminate the possibility of any serious underlying health issue that may be the cause of your symptoms.
Seek out other CFS sufferers - whether in your own community - or on the worldwide web. You need to know that you are not alone. And others can offer some very simple and practical solutions to help you gain some measure of control over your situation.
It may be difficult to talk to others at first. To let them know what you are going through. But open communication can help pave the way for additional needed assistance. It may be difficult for you to even admit that you need help - but this is actually an essential method of gathering control of a situation that may at first appear hopeless to you.
If you have someone in your life that is acting as a primary caregiver it is also vitally important that you discuss freely with one another the different emotions that you are experiencing. Some of this may be hard to get through but it is much better than letting it build up to the point that it affects the health of you both and inhibits you even more from getting better. Excessive emotional strain can work against getting better.
So remember to keep open to the knowledge that is out there and stay close to the people who care for you. Others have successfully come through and there is every reason to believe that you will to.
Caring For Someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
If you are personally caring for someone who is suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you no doubt are just as perplexed by this illness as anyone. Someone you love may suddenly be unable to do a fraction of what they previously did - and the doctors are unable to give you a satisfying answer as to why this has happened.
For individuals who become the primary caregiver of someone who is seriously ill there can be numerous challenges. Besides seeing to the physical comfort and care of the patient you will need to come to understand the emotional issues they are facing. Having an illness that severely limits your activity yet has no clear cause is a source of deep frustration. Many people who suffer with CFS battle depression and this will need to be addressed.
And as so often happens in these situations, the focus is naturally on the life of the person who has become ill. But the life of the primary care giver has changed dramatically as well. You will no doubt try to rise to the occasion - perhaps taking on many of the responsibilities of the other - and yet it may not seem to be of sufficient help. You may run the risk of becoming not only depressed as well, but physically unwell.
In turn, the one who has become ill, quite often starts to experience deep guilt at not being able to get well again. Sometimes this illness can last for years. They begin to feel like a burden. And though they may be deeply grateful for all that you are doing there may be an underlying resentment that they have found themselves in this situation and must always rely on others for help. Maybe previously they were even a totally independent type of personality and having to rely on others engenders a type of anger where they unintentionally lash out and hurt those closest to them.
It is a complex situation that can only begin to be dealt with by first acknowledging that it exists. All of the frustrations, disappointments, fears and anxieties are totally normal reactions. There is no need to compound these issues with more issues of guilt.
It is vital to remember that there is always reason to hope that things can and will change. That working together from a groundwork of open communication you will be able to feel free to express these feelings and then move past them to finding the best practical solutions for your particular circumstances.
If something prevents you from being able to talk honestly with one another about your feelings it may be helpful to seek outside help from others who have gone through this ordeal or who have professionally treated others and have helped them to cope. There are more and more support groups becoming available that will allow you to find the not only the compassion you need but the practical suggestions that might carry you through.
Remember that you will have to keep an eye on your own long term health. This is important and reasonable. From time to time you may need to find an opportunity to seek some rest outside of the situation. By being open and frank about your situation (as much as you are comfortable with) you may be able to have friends or relatives spell you a bit. And if you are consulting with a personal doctor it is necessary to let him or her know what you are dealing with so that not only can they keep an eye on you but as well be there to point you to other sources of practical support.