Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
People with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) often feel the most exhausted they have ever felt, all day every day, for weeks or months at a time. This often interferes with their ability to work, function, have a social life, or sometimes even get out of bed. Unfortunately, there is no official diagnostic test. Medical researchers also call this myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Fatigue is a symptom of just about every illness out there, but ME/CFS is a diagnosis all on its own. Common symptoms include problems with thinking and concentrating, memory loss, muscle and joint pain, headaches, depression, sleep problems, including unrefreshing sleep, and a feeling of overall weakness. Plus, the symptoms may get worse after any physical activities or mental activities (that’s called PEM—post exertional malaise).
Besides the lack of a diagnostic test, there's no one underlying cause of ME/CFS. Other medical conditions have similar symptoms, and there’s no magic bullet to treat it. Because some people experience a flu-like illness before the onset of ME/CFS, experts suspect a viral connection (especially with the Epstein-Barr virus), but the evidence has been inconclusive so far. Others also suspect that tickborne infections like Lyme disease, or immune problems like mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) can be underlying triggers. What preliminary research does show is that genetics may play a role—some people are born with a predisposition that can be triggered by things like viral infections, immune problems, or hormonal imbalances—and that ME/CFS has similarities to fibromyalgia and links to metabolic syndrome.
- Arthritis Foundation. Chronic fatigue syndrome and Fibromyalgia. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/expert-q-a/fibromyalgia-questions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-fibromyalgia.php
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue Syndrome. https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/about/possible-causes.html
- Journal of Translational Medicine. Chronic viral infections in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). https://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-018-1644-y
- Mayo Clinic, Chronic fatigue syndrome. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490
- National Institutes of Health. Chronic fatigue syndrome. https://medlineplus.gov/chronicfatiguesyndrome.html