Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – What is It?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as post-viral fatigue syndrome is a widespread illness in which you have prolonged tiredness (fatigue) that interferes with your daily life. CFS is diagnosed when at least three of the following signs are present: recurrent tiredness that does not ease with rest; muscle and joint pain that worsens with rest; headaches that increase in intensity and frequency or that are confused with other headaches; and difficulty with concentrating, memory or other cognitive functions. It is believed that ME/CFS is caused by a combination of several factors. The exact cause is still unknown.

One of the many possible causes of ME/CFS is mealtimes, i.e., the lack of adequate general support. My husband has been suffering from ME/CFS since he was a child, but it was until recently that I had any idea of what it was all about. He was diagnosed with non-specific myalgia after taking an online course about fatigue syndrome. He was found to have high levels of generalized fatigue syndrome, low grade fever and low grade joint pain, although the former was not consistent across his body and could be absent in one area only, whilst the latter was present in all parts of his body.

He has taken time off work and suffered from severe headaches, muscle and joint ache, insomnia, mood disturbances, irritability, muscle weakness and loss of appetite since he was diagnosed with ME/CFS. When he took time off work, his symptoms worsened during the day and his general functioning decreased. His willingness to engage in physical activity diminished too, probably because he did not feel capable of doing so, even if only for a short period of time. These changes in his lifestyle are typical for anyone who has developed chronic fatigue syndrome.

The intensity and duration of his symptoms have been similar in different people, but the difference has been that in the last few years, his symptoms have been more prolonged and more severe. He has also lost considerable strength in his muscles and is finding it difficult to get out of bed on his own. Although he has had some mild form of relief from the ME/CFS symptoms, this is likely to be transitory, as his symptoms usually return when he rests. As his ability to do anything without rest is impaired, his quality of life is very low and he is becoming more depressed.

As his fatigue and restricted movements become more intense over time, and without any resolution in sight, he is increasingly distressed and feels his life is slipping away. His depression is also intensifying as his knowledge of the disease is decreasing. It’s difficult for him to understand that the fatigue and disorientation are just part of the long-term effects of chronic fatigue syndrome. But it’s important for him to realise that at some point, the disease will not be easy to beat and that, if left unchecked, it could cause his death.

Unfortunately, there is no current cure for this illness, so he is faced with a limited number of possible treatments, none of which seem to be working. Although myalgia is chronic, the symptoms are often easier to deal with as they come and go. So, for a majority of patients, getting better means reducing the impact of their symptoms, allowing them to get better and eventually get better quicker. If you are starting to feel unwell, see your GP. Don’t wait for your condition to get worse and then decide to try something different, or worse, just ignore it and assume that it will never get better. Don’t lose heart if you don’t see improvements after a couple of weeks; it can take time for your body to adjust to the new condition and, in some cases, it might take a while before a sufferer starts to feel better.