Being tired is one thing, but being tired for no reason and all the time might indicate an underlying health problem.
Have you ever felt that you can't seem to shake off that tiredness no matter how much rest you get and doing physical or mental work just seems to drain you even more? While you might just brush it off as being too stressed from work or other chores and think that you'll get better soon enough, it might actually be a warning sign that you could be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a disorder that is characterized by extreme tiredness or fatigue that doesn't go away even with rest. It isn't caused by an underlying health condition and it does not have an approved or a well-defined treatment method. Though many do believe that it can be managed through some self-techniques. It is also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID).
Observer spoke to Dr. Nathan Holladay, MD, Ph.D, a private practitioner who specializes in ME/CFS about the disorder and the importance of classifying it as a proper mental disorder. “Chronic fatigue simply means long-standing fatigue,” he explained. “The problem is that when people hear the words ‘chronic fatigue,’ they’ll say, ‘I’m tired too.’”
Holladay further added that it is best to refer to the disorder, at the very least, as ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, "because you’re talking about something more severe,” he adds.
Until 2017, CFS was considered an exaggeration of everyday fatigue. However, as reported by the Observer, an online news site, the CDC finally acknowledged its severity and due to that, the science community started looking for cures for the disorder.
The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome may often be confused with everyday tiredness or a form of fatigue, or perhaps even be attributed to a different health issue. But if you identify with multiple of the following symptoms, it is best to consult a qualified health professional.
2. Sore throat
3. Loss of memory
4. Persistent headaches
5. Inability to concentrate
6. Unexplained muscle and joint pain
7. Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
8. Sleep that doesn't result in a refreshed feeling
9. Extreme exhaustion that lasts more than a day after any physical or mental exercise
Currently, research has not been able to pinpoint the factors that can cause one to suffer from the chronic fatigue syndrome. However, according to the MayoClinic, some of the factors that may play a role in developing CFS are:
1. Immune system issues - It has been found that those suffering from CFS have a slightly impaired immune system but scientists have been unable to confirm if that impairment can actually cause the syndrome.
2. Hormonal imbalances - Those who have CFS may also experience abnormalities in the blood levels of the hormones produced in the hypothalamus, adrenal and pituitary glands. However, the significance of this find is still unknown.
3. Viral infections - Some people develop CFS after having a viral infection which has caused researchers to check if some viruses might trigger it. Some viruses that they suspect are the Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6, Ross River virus (RRV), rubella and mouse leukemia viruses. However, again there is no conclusive link discerned yet.
Stress and genetics are also possible links to the development of the disease but there is no evidence of it yet. Clinical trials are currently being done to get a better insight into the disorder.
According to Medscape, CFS affects "up to 4 million people in the United States." However, it also states that "85% of US citizens with CFS remain undiagnosed." The CDC backs this up by reporting that the "Institute of Medicine (IOM) report published in 2015, [...] estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from ME/CFS, but most of them have not been diagnosed."
It is also a disorder that affects 3-5 times more women than men. The peaking age range of women who suffer from CFS is between 40 to 59 years of age.
For a long time, the CDC had recommended exercise and psychotherapy as a way to treat the disorder. However, according to a study called PACE, published in the Lancet, "CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] and GET [Graded Exercise Therapy] can safely be added to SMC [specialist medical care] to moderately improve outcomes for chronic fatigue syndrome."
However, the test had been proven faulty and the results were regarded as "nonsensical and uninterpretable." According to Stat, an online news site, the scientific community was up in arms about these faulty results and incorrect treatment methods. Stat reported that "100 experts signed an open letter to Psychological Medicine [...] stating that the trial’s [PACE's] flaws 'are unacceptable in published research' and 'cannot be defended or explained away.'" The CDC had refused to take down the treatment methods from the site despite this backlash but after tons of petitions, finally took it down.
This is essential information as it shows that there is no known treatment for the disorder. However, there are options that can be discussed with a qualified medical professional who specializes in CFS/ME. Since the disorder is specific to individuals, you will need to consult the concerned doctor about the severity of your symptoms and consider the options available to you.