When ‘feeling tired’ signals something more On The Web CFIDS Association of America CDC: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown By Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld Published: January 21, 2007 There are more than a million Americans who never seem to get a good night’s sleep. They wake up exhausted and stay that way the rest of the day, and napping doesn’t really help. Many are not only chronically tired but also suffer from persistent joint or muscle pain, a sore throat or headache. Puzzled, worried and understandably depressed, they want to know why they feel this way. After innumerable blood tests, X-rays and scans, they’re told “there is nothing wrong” and are often referred to a psychiatrist. The implication, of course, is that the problem is “all in your head.” This condition has a name—chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)—but no known cause or cure. And there are no specific diagnostic lab tests. Instead, diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome comes only after your doctor has ruled out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as low thyroid function, sleep apnea, lupus, depression, the side effects of medication and chronic disease of the kidneys or liver. Chronic fatigue syndrome affects more women than men and is most prevalent in individuals who are in their 40s and 50s. However, it also can manifest itself in teenagers. It is diagnosed after an individual has had unexplained, persistent fatigue for at least six months, along with other symptoms, such as joint and/or muscle pain, tender or enlarged lymph nodes, and poor memory and concentration (see below). There also may be recurring abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, night sweats, chest pain, shortness of breath and a chronic cough. Although these symptoms sometimes clear up on their own as mysteriously as they began, they can continue indefinitely. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—which believes that as many as 800,000 Americans might have CFS but don’t know it—urged doctors to consider the disorder seriously and suggested possible treatments for symptoms. It’s not clear what triggers CFS, but some researchers believe there may be a combination of causes, including different viruses, a faulty immune system and a fluctuation in hormonal levels. Genetic and environmental factors also could be involved. Still, there are steps you can take to feel better. For example, painkillers can ease a headache, as well as muscle and joint pain; antispasmodics and antidiarrheal preparations can relieve various gastrointestinal complaints, and an antidepressant can improve mood, relieve pain and help you sleep. You also can try gentle exercise, acupuncture, massage, deep breathing, meditation, biofeedback, yoga and tai chi. However, always inform your doctor before trying any herbal remedies, some of which may be harmful or interact with other medications. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Do You Have These Symptoms? A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome requires unexplained, persistent fatigue for six months and at least four of the following symptoms: • Unrefreshing night’s sleep. • Joint pain without redness or swelling. • Muscle pain. • Tender or enlarged lymph nodes. • Sore throat. • Headache that’s new or more severe. • Poor memory and concentration. • Prolonged exhaustion after activity.