Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) awareness day and Florence Nightingale’s birthday fall on May 12. The day commemorates victory of Nightingale from pain, fatigue and CFS symptoms to attain many remarkable accomplishments.
What is CFS?
- Presence of any of the following symptoms can suggest CFS:
- You feel fatigued after climbing just 10 stairs of your office?
- You don’t feel refreshed after a long sleep or you don’t get sleep at all.
- You forget things easily and when comes to concentration, you can’t have one task finished in time.
- You have a sore throat almost every hour of the day.
- You have exhaustion but you can’t describe it.
- In the refreshing morning of a beautiful day, you feel so tired as if you just ran a marathon.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or CFS or “systemic exertion intolerance disease,” includes debilitating fatigue that is constant or recurring. CFS is an unbearable, underserved and under-diagnosed disorder characterized by extreme fatigue. This type of fatigue is not improved by getting rest. It may be made worse by physical or mental activity and can limit your ability to complete ordinary daily activities. CFS can affect multiple systems in the body causing muscle pain or weakness, cognitive dysfunction (brain fog), and insomnia (the inability to sleep). More than 17 million people worldwide suffer from this disease.
What causes CFS?
Despite substantial research, the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown. It could be genetic, due to an environmental trigger or your lifestyle, your long working hours, exposure to microbes, toxins, and other physical and emotional factors. It may be triggered by stress, various illnesses or other medical conditions. So it could be anything behind this dreadful disease.
What are the symptoms of ME/CFS?
- Feeling extremely exhausted
- Not feeling refreshed even after sleeping
- Problems with concentration, attention and memory
- Feeling dizzy or faint when sitting up or standing (due to a drop in blood pressure)
- Muscle pain or aches
- Tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the arm
- Sore throat that is constant or goes away and comes back often
Less-common symptoms of ME/CFS include:
- Visual problems (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain)
- Psychological symptoms (irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety)
- Chills and night sweats
- Low grade fever or low body temperature
- Irritable bowel
- Allergies and sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications, and sound
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the face, hands, or feet
How is ME/CFS treated?
Sadly there is no cure or FDA-approved treatments for ME/CFS. But, there are few things you, your family members and your doctor can do to help ease your symptoms.
Graded exercise therapy (GET)
GET is nothing but increasing your physical activities according to your CFS symptoms and closely monitored by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist who is used to treating people with CFS/ME. GET can improve symptoms for some people. However, some people report that they do not find it beneficial.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is based on the idea that your mind can treat your body which means that a certain way of thought process can heal your CFS. It aims to change any harmful behaviors which can fuel certain health problems. It could be anything from physical activity, daily routine management, thinking positively, having a sleep routine, goal setting.
What can I do to cope with ME/CFS?
- Talking about your feelings with a friend or family member can help.
- Sometimes it also helps to talk with people who are going through the same thing.
- Adjust your schedule to take advantage of times when you have more energy and feel less tired.
- Keep a diary for a week or so. Write down the times of day when you have energy and when you are tired. If there is a pattern to how your energy level changes during the day, try to plan your work, school, or other activities around that pattern.
- Do what you can to take charge of your fatigue level. Try not to do too much when you have more energy. If you do too much, you may become overtired. And it may take several days for you to recover.
- Improve your sleep habits.
- Sleep problems may add to your fatigue and other symptoms.
- Go to bed only when you are sleepy. Get up at the same time every day, whether or not you feel rested.
- If you lie awake for longer than 15 minutes, get up, leave the bedroom, and do something quiet until you feel sleepy again.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco well before bed.
- Get light, gentle exercise regularly.
- Eat a balanced diet. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, legumes, poultry, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
Please keep in mind that CFS can lead to many complex medical conditions like depression and social isolation. You will also have some lifestyle restrictions because of your chronic fatigue. You might lose your career or not be able to spend as much time with family and friends as you would like. If you are employed, your doctor will be able to advise you about whether you should take time off work. Please don’t ignore symptoms