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Chronic fatigue syndrome

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VOL: 102, ISSUE: 14, PAGE NO: 25

WHAT IS IT?

WHAT IS IT?
- Chronic fatigue syndrome is an umbrella term for a number of related conditions including myalgic encephalomyelitis/encephalopathy (ME), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome and postviral fatigue syndrome.

- The term ME is still commonly used to describe chronic fatigue syndrome. However, while muscle pain and inflammation and dysfunction of the brain and spinal cord may be associated with ME, these symptoms are not present in all cases of chronic fatigue syndrome.

- Chronic fatigue syndrome can occur at any age, although it is more prevalent in young adults. It is more common in women and affects approximately one in 1,000 people.

CAUSES
- Chronic fatigue syndrome is not communicable.

- The exact causes are unknown but some conditions are thought to predispose people to the condition or have an effect on its development.

- Causes include:

- Viral or bacterial infection such as glandular fever;

- Traumatic experiences such as family bereavement;

- Disorders of the immune system;

- Abnormalities of the hormonal system;

- Psychological disorders such as depression;

- Too much or too little activity;

- Poor diet;

- Environmental factors, such as exposure to pollution.

SYMPTOMS
- The main symptom is a persistent feeling of tiredness that does not improve with rest.

- Other symptoms include:

- Memory loss;

- Confusion;

- Sore throat;

- Tender lymph nodes;

- Muscle pain;

- Joint pain;

- Severe headaches;

- Insomnia and frequent waking;

- Orthostatic hypotension.

DIAGNOSIS
- There is no definitive diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome. A diagnosis is made by examining the patient's medical history and ruling out other conditions.

TREATMENT
- There is no definitive treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, options depend on the individual's symptoms.

- Common strategies focus on a mixture of symptom control and self-help. Treatment options include the following:

- Antidepressants for fatigue with depression;

- Medication for specific symptoms, such as ibuprofen for joint pain and paracetamol for headaches;

- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be very effective;

- Exercise programmes can be staged to gradually increase the person's activity levels;

- Complementary therapies such as osteopathy and homeopathy can have positive benefits;

- Avoiding stressful situations;

- A regular diet avoiding alcohol, caffeine and excessive sugar;

- Rest;

- Ensuring a regular sleeping pattern.

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