Chronic fatigue syndrome

Description

Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by extreme fatigue that does not go away with rest. It is about 4 times more common in women than in men, and those affected are usually between 25 and 45 years old. In Canada, chronic fatigue syndrome affects approximately 1.5% of the population.

Although the causes of this syndrome remain unknown, the onset of symptoms is thought to be triggered by a viral infection that prompts an abnormal reaction of the immune system.

Symptoms

Those with chronic fatigue syndrome feel so tired that it interferes with their daily activities. The fatigue often begins abruptly and is unexplained. You may be diagnosed with this syndrome if you have experienced persistent fatigue for more than 6 months that is not relieved by rest. The acute phase of the illness usually lasts 2 years, as symptom intensity tends to decline over time. Symptoms other than fatigue may also be present:

  • New onset of food allergy or intolerance
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Dizziness
  • Post-exertion malaise that persists for more than 24 hours
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Marked weight change
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Sensitivity to noise, smells and visual stimuli
  • Sleep disturbance

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome frequently complain of psychological symptoms in addition to their physical symptoms. They often experience a great deal of frustration since the illness is often misunderstood and they are forced to cope with the stigma attached to chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also important to consider the effect that fatigue can have on a person's autonomy. The fatigue associated with this illness can be so overwhelming that some patients have difficulty fulfilling their family and professional obligations.

Diagnosis

There are no specific tests to confirm the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. It must therefore be diagnosed by process of elimination.

Treatment

Before taking any medication, it is important to reorganize one's daily activities in order to avoid or reduce periods of fatigue:

  • Avoid excessive physical activity and major sources of stress
  • Relax daily
  • Get enough sleep
  • Plan your activities accordingly so that you don't overdo it
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol or too much fast-acting sugar

It is very important that you not isolate yourself and that you maintain an active social life.

Afterwards, medication can be prescribed to relieve certain symptoms: insomnia, anxiety, pain, fatigue, dizziness and depression.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist.

For more information or for support:

www.fm-cfs.ca

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