55. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Way Up from Down

Until about 1983, doctors knew next to nothing about chronic fatigue syndrome. Some researchers used to think it was caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Others suggest its cause could be a virus that has not yet been found. Most experts now lean toward a theory of multiple causes. The person affected complains of :

  1. Fatigue for at least six months.

  2. Sore throat.

  3. Swollen glands.

  4. Low-grade fever.

  5. Headaches.

  6. Depression.

  7. Muscle aches.

  8. Mild weight loss.

  9. Short-term memory problems, confusion, difficulty thinking, inability to concentrate.

  10. Sleep disturbances (insomnia or hypersomnia).

These symptoms could signal a number of health conditions. Chronic fatigue syndrome can be diagnosed only after other illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, or psychiatric illnesses have been ruled out. As yet, no specific laboratory tests can diagnose the syndrome.

For some, the symptoms are so debilitating that a normal working life is impossible. Yet others experience only a vague sense of feeling ill. In some cases, symptoms never let up, while in others they come and go.

Until more is known, people with chronic fatigue syndrome are encouraged to do the following:

  1. Get plenty of rest.

  2. Learn to manage stress.

  3. Take good care of their general health.

  4. Try to lead as normal a life as possible.

  5. Join a support group of others who have this problem.

Medicine to relieve pain and fever, such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen, may be helpful. A low dose of an antidepressant may also be prescribed. A gradual exercise program, if tolerated, may also be beneficial.

Chapter 2
  1. Major Medical Conditions:

  2. Prevention, Detection, and Treatment