What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is characterized by unexplained prolonged fatigue that is not improved by rest and may be worsened by physical or mental activity. This fatigue can be severe and incapacitating, causing a substantial reduction in daily activities. This impairment affects occupational, personal, social or education activities. There are a number of associated symptoms, and other medical conditions must be excluded before CFS can be diagnosed.
Who Gets CFS?
One to 4 million Americans suffer from CFS. Approximately 40% of those with symptoms of CFS actually have an unrecognized medical or psychiatric condition (including diabetes, thyroid disease, and substance abuse). Although it can affect anyone, CFS is four times as common in women compared to men, and most typically occurs in people in their 40s and 50s.
What are the Characteristic Symptoms?
In addition to incapacitating fatigue lasting greater than 6 months and the exclusion of other medical conditions, individuals with CFS concurrently have four or more of the following symptoms:
- Post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours (relapse of symptoms after physical or mental exertion)
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Substantial impairment in memory or concentration
- Persistent muscle pain
- Pain in multiple joints without swelling or redness
- Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
- Sore throat
- Tender neck or armpit lymph nodes
Are there Other Associated Symptoms?
In addition to the characteristic symptoms described above, many symptoms occur in about 20% to 50% of people with CFS. These additional symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Alcohol Intolerance
- Allergies or sensitivities to foods, alcohol, odors, chemicals, medications or noise
- Balance problems
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Irregular heartbeat
- Jaw pain
- Morning stiffness
- Night sweats
- Psychological problems (depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks)
- Shortness of breath
- Skin sensations
- Tingling sensations
- Visual disturbances (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain)
- Weight loss or gain