Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: what it is, symptoms and treatment

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What is CFS?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disorder that affects multiple parts of the body, with the patient experiencing persistent severe fatigue.

Although chronic fatigue syndrome does not shorten life, it does limit it. CFS can seriously alter the routine of a person who suffers it. They are often unable to perform daily activities. In this article, Nomenial investigates further.

Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The causes that provoke the appearance of the chronic fatigue syndrome are unknown. Currently, researchers continue to try to find out, with the following being the most likely:

Infection. 10% of people who develop certain infections will suffer CFS. It happens, above all, in the case of patients suffering from the so-called Epstein-Barr virus (a virus belonging to the herpesvirus family and the main cause of mononucleosis).

Changes in the immune system. When the immune system responds to an illness or to circumstances of special anxiety, as a consequence of such changes this syndrome can develop.

Hormonal imbalances. It is frequent that the patients with this symptom present abnormal levels in blood of the hormones that take place in places like the hypothalamus, the hypophysis or the suprarenal glands.

Mental or physical stress. Most people in whom CFS is triggered have been exposed to mental or physical stress for months before diagnosis.

Energy production. Although it is not yet known why, it has been found that the cells of chronically fatigued patients obtain energy differently than people without the condition.

Genetic or environmental factors. Women are more likely to suffer from it.

Thus, there is no specific cause that triggers this syndrome, but researchers are convinced that it is a combination of multiple factors ranging from viral infections to emotional stress.

Degrees of chronic fatigue

The specialists have established a scale of functional affectation of the chronic fatigue:

Grade I (mild). In this phase, the affected person sees his activity reduced by half with respect to the previous scenario, although he can still carry out a normal life.

Grade II (moderate). Significantly impairs the patient’s day-to-day life, and reduces the level of activity of the patient to a third of its previous position.

Grade III (severe). The patient must remain in bed since he or she cannot carry out any action or effort, however minimal. In this phase, the patient needs the permanent attention of a person who assists him/her in each and every one of the daily activities.

Chronic Fatigue – Symptoms

As we can see in its own name, the main symptom of people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome is permanent and, in some cases, totally disabling fatigue.

In addition to fatigue, this condition manifests itself through other symptoms:

Widespread pain for no apparent reason (especially sore throat, headache and joint pain. In the case of this last pain, it is not accompanied by redness or swelling).

Increase in the size of the lymph nodes (both in the throat and in the armpits).

Feeling of deep discomfort after physical or mental effort, significantly worsening the rest of the symptoms.

Sleep problems, unrefreshing sleep, resulting in daytime drowsiness.

Night sweats.


Increased sensitivity to odors, chemicals and certain foods.

Irritable bowel (which causes alterations of the intestinal rhythm, alternating diarrhea and constipation).

Difficulty thinking, memorizing or concentrating. Problems remembering recent episodes.

Dizziness, problems holding up and maintaining balance Sometimes even fainting. This increases the risk of falling.

Oscillating fever (always of low intensity). It appears normally at dusk and without any cause that justifies it.

Dryness of the skin and mucous membranes. For example, dry eyes and mouth.

Worsening of the symptoms with environmental factors such as cold or humidity. This means that in hot climates there is a slight improvement.

Anxiety and depression. The patient can suffer episodes of depression or psychological problems such as anxiety, irritability, panic attacks or abrupt changes in mood.

All these symptoms also produce a feeling of frustration that is very uncomfortable for the patient.

How chronic fatigue is diagnosed

Chronic fatigue syndrome is not easy to diagnose. There are no specific tests that can determine the existence of this condition. For this reason, the doctor will focus his diagnostic process on two main areas:

Clinical history. The anamnesis constitutes a fundamental part of the diagnosis of this syndrome. This involves the doctor asking the patient a series of questions in order to obtain information about past events and circumstances, family history, present state and life habits. On some occasions, the doctor may also ask the people who live with the patient or those closest to him/her. It will be necessary for the conversation to take place in an atmosphere of tranquility and trust promoted by the doctor, since this technique of collecting information is key to the accurate diagnosis of this disease.

Physical exploration. It is essential, above all, to exclude other diseases. The objective physical findings that can be detected are numerous. They may include pain upon palpation of the muscles, pharyngitis, posterior or axillary cervical pain, and fever. On certain occasions, other symptoms can include skin exanthema (pinkish skin rash that appears suddenly, usually due to an infectious disease).

CFS: Test

Before going to the doctor’s visit, we can perform the chronic fatigue test and answer some of the questions that the doctor will ask us at this time. However, it is essential, if we suffer any of the symptoms exposed, request a medical appointment.

CFS: treatment

There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, so the patient must learn to live with it. However, there are treatments to alleviate this condition as much as possible.

Before beginning some type of treatment, we must ask ourselves a question that will be of great help and effectiveness to us to manage to reduce the problems of physical and psychological health unchained by the syndrome: which is the symptom that with greater force is manifested? For example, if they are the problems to sleep in a satisfactory way, the first step is to look for a treatment that helps us to maintain some good habits of sleep

With this first action, we will partly reduce the fatigue caused by lack of sleep.

Thus, the types of treatment will be carried out on several points:

Cognitive behavioral therapy.

Through it, we try to help the patient face the problems of this condition in the most lively and motivating way possible, highlighting his ability to cope with their routine.

Pharmacological treatment.

There is no specific drug for chronic fatigue, but depending on the severity and need for each symptom, the specialist will prescribe a specific medication for its relief. Thus, for example, it is common for patients to take anxiolytics, corticoids or pills to combat insomnia.

Low intensity and controlled physical exercise.

The majority of patients with chronic fatigue do not carry out physical exercise on a regular basis. This means that when they have to carry out some type of activity that involves a greater effort than they are used to, they experience great discomfort. A stable exercise routine controlled by a specialist will be beneficial to keep the body active and reduce the limitations of CFS.

Balanced diet.

Patients with chronic fatigue should avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine. Maintaining a proper daily menu helps reduce the overall discomfort caused by this condition.

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue

People usually confuse these two pathologies, but even though they share some characteristics, there are clear elements that differentiate them.

The main difference between both is the main symptom: while in fibromyalgia it is muscle pain, in chronic fatigue syndrome it is extreme tiredness.

On the other hand and with respect to other frequent symptoms, patients with fibromyalgia suffer stiffness and muscular rigidity, something that people with CFS do not present.

Finally, the drugs are much more effective in patients with fibromyalgia than in those with CFS, which must follow, as we have seen, a superior multidisciplinary treatment.

In Nomenial we are experts in the care of patients with different degrees of CFS. The professional caregivers that we select know perfectly the type of care that the patient needs, so that, through their work, they manage to increase their well-being and that of the whole family.