Breaking Down Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Fatigue can happen for many reasons.  It can occur because of regular exhaustion, secondary to medical conditions, or due to chronic fatigue syndrome.  About 40 percent of people who have symptoms of chronic fatigue turn out to have a treatable, underlying medical condition.  Such conditions include:

o   Depression

o   Stress

o   Thyroid disease

o   Anemia

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disorder characterized by a state of chronic fatigue that persists for more than 6 months, has no clear cause, and is accompanied by cognitive difficulties. The cause is unknown, but theories range from viral to autoimmune etiologies. Symptoms include:

§  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

There are no tests to diagnosis chronic fatigue syndrome however your doctor may run several test to rule out other possible causes of fatigue.  For some people it can get bad enough that even holding down a job becomes difficult, forcing them to consider going on disability leave.

Sometimes chronic fatigue is just a result of fitting too much into a day.  For instance, if you experience a level of fatigue that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day, but not so severe that it’s keeping you from living your normal life, there are a few adjustments that can help.  Add a stress relieving habit to your day, to help pick up your energy.  This can mean a daily walk, meditation, or yoga.  You can also try to avoid processed foods, heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine in the evening which can interfere with your sleep.  Following a regular exercise routine can also be helpful. 

Treatment is largely supportive and responsive to symptoms. This includes physical therapy and modest aerobic or anaerobic exercise (if possible) to avoid cardiovascular deconditioning. A general problem-oriented approach can be helpful in dealing with certain issues, such as sleep.  Sleep may be addressed with medication; often, melatonin or night-time amitriptyline is helpful.

Here are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene:

§  Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning

§  Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold

§  Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music

§  Physical activity may help promote sleep, but not within a few hours of bedtime.

§  Avoid large meals before bedtime