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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as CFS) is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by intense fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and may also be worsened by physical or mental activity. This syndrome affects more than one million people in the United States. People with CFS most often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before the onset of illness. In addition to these key defining characteristics, people report various nonspecific symptoms including:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle pain
  • Impaired memory and/or mental concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Post-exertional fatigue lasting more than 24 hours


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Other Commonly Observed Symptoms in CFS

In addition to the eight primary defining symptoms of CFS, a number of other symptoms have been reported by some CFS patients. The frequencies of occurrence of these symptoms vary from 20% to 50% among CFS patients. They include abdominal pain, alcohol intolerance, bloating, chest pain, chronic cough, diarrhea, dizziness, dry eyes or mouth, earaches, irregular heartbeat, jaw pain, morning stiffness, nausea, night sweats, psychological problems (depression, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks), shortness of breath, skin sensations, tingling sensations, and weight loss.

How long does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome last?

In some cases, CFS can persist for years. In conventional medicine, the cause or causes of CFS have not been identified and no specific diagnostic tests are available. Moreover, since many illnesses have incapacitating fatigue as a symptom, it is important to exclude other known and often treatable conditions before a diagnosis of CFS is made.

What is the Definition of CFS?

Have severe chronic fatigue of six months or longer duration with other known medical conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis; and concurrently have four or more of the following symptoms: substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; multi-joint pain without swelling or redness; headaches of a new type, pattern or severity; un-refreshing sleep; and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.

The symptoms must have persisted or recurred during six or more consecutive months of illness and must not have predated the fatigue.

A number of illnesses have been described that have similar symptoms to CFS. These include:

  • Fibromyalgia syndrome
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis
  • Neurasthenia
  • Multiple chemical sensitivities
  • Chronic mononucleosis



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