What To Know About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome | The Disorder That Affects Women Four Times More Than Men

What To Know About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome | The Disorder That Affects Women Four Times More Than Men

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome include difficulties in thinking fast, remembering information, or paying attention to details due to poor focus or short-term memory.

Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Nenad Cavoski

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is marked by exhaustion -- not just plain lethargy but a kind of tiredness that no amount of rest and sleep can fix.

The syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, is "a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months and can't be fully explained by an underlying medical condition," per Mayo Clinic. According to Me Research, CFS affects women roughly four times more than it affects men. Though frequent among women in their 40s and 50s, it can also affect children and teenagers, per WebMD.


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An estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from ME/CFS, according to Institute of Medicine (IOM) research but most remain undiagnosed. Furthermore, research indicates that CFS costs US between $9 and $25 billion annually in lost productivity and medical expenses, per The Swaddle.


What Are The Symptoms Of CFS?

According to experts, the severe exhaustion associated with CFS frequently reduces a person's activity and productivity by 50%. Other symptoms include:

a) Difficulty in thinking fast, remembering information, or paying attention to details due to poor focus or short-term memory

b) Frequent sore throat, frequent headaches, multi-joint pain without redness or swelling, and muscle pain


c) Lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, irritable bowel syndrome, chills and night sweats and allergic and sensitive reactions to food, odor, sounds, and lights, according to CDC




"You are likely to have CFS if suddenly you feel inexplicably tired and exhausted; this fatigue does not ease off even after a rest, the patient experiences pain in the muscles, joints, or head, has a thumping heart (palpitations), loses concentration and faces short-term memory loss, even though there is no significant change in their lifestyle," Navneet Kaur, senior consultant, internal medicine, Nova Specialty Hospitals, New Delhi, India told Live Mint.


What Causes CFS?

A number of variables may contribute to the development of CFS, per Mayo Clinic. Viral infections and psychological stress are considered possible causes but the origin of CFS remains unclear. There is also a suggestion that the way our immune system reacts to stress or infections is disrupted could cause CFS. However, the reasons for these disruptions are not yet known, per Medline Plus.




A hereditary predisposition is also linked to CFS, per Healthline. A 2009 research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry discovered that childhood trauma, such as sexual or emotional abuse or emotional neglect, was linked to a six-fold more significant risk of CFS.


How Is CFS Diagnosed?

As there are no present screenings to detect CFS, patients sometimes have to endure the disease for years before receiving treatment. It is likely that 84 to 91 percent of people with CFS are still undiagnosed.

Dr. Satish Koul, general physician, at Columbia Asia Hospital said, "It is difficult to diagnose this syndrome as there are no specific tests. Some criteria have to be checked, and individual assessments made. Other suspected diseases (like anemia, thyroid, liver and kidney problem, etc.) need to be ruled out before finalizing the diagnosis."



Gabriella Marinaccio, 28, a teacher from Norwalk, Connecticut, described her agonizing diagnosis, "They said there was nothing wrong with me. They did 50 pages of blood work and said everything was fine." 

How Is CFS Treated?

There is no particular treatment for CFS, just as there is no test to diagnose it. Practitioners may use several strategies to help people including recommending a change in lifestyle. According to CDC, healthcare providers give priority to the symptoms that cause the most problem and treat them first.

A woman with the condition told The Swaddle, "The most effective treatment is to learn to live with it. The earlier you accept it, the better it is."

It is always better to see your doctor or speak with one if any of the symptoms are experienced. Prevention and finding care earlier on are always better.










Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Nenad Cavoski