What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition of
overwhelming fatigue that lasts for at least 6 months and
interferes with your daily life.
Most people with CFS are 20- to 40-year-old adults. The
syndrome affects women more often than men. However, men and
women of all ages can have CFS.
How does it occur?
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not known.
What are the symptoms?
Physical symptoms of CFS may include:
overwhelming exhaustion, tiredness, or weakness that
lasts longer than 6 months
tender lymph nodes
joint aches and pain without swelling or redness
malaise (general discomfort or uneasiness) lasting
more than 24 hours after you exert yourself.
Psychological symptoms of CFS may include:
How is it diagnosed?
It is difficult to diagnose CFS because many illnesses
cause symptoms similar to those of CFS. Your health care
provider will try to rule out other illnesses and possible
causes of your fatigue. Your provider will ask about your
medical history and symptoms. You will have a complete
physical exam. If you have been having fevers but don't have
one when you see your provider, you may be asked to record
your temperature at home several times a day.
You may have a number of tests, such as urine and blood
tests, to check for infections, immune or metabolic
diseases, hormone problems, anemia, and tumors.
If your provider cannot find another specific cause for
your fatigue, you may be diagnosed with chronic fatigue
How is it treated?
If you have chronic fatigue syndrome, there is currently
no known cure. However, in addition to medicine to treat
some of the symptoms, 2 types of treatment can be helpful:
The exercise program starts slowly and easily. You
increase the amount of exercise very gradually with the
goals of increasing your muscle strength and energy.
Behavior therapy helps you focus on the positive (what you
are able to do) and can help you feel more hopeful as
your muscle strength and energy improve. Both exercise and
behavior therapy can help reduce other symptoms of CFS such
as headaches and trouble concentrating.
Your health care provider may prescribe medicine for
symptoms such as headache and muscle pain. Antidepressant
medicines may help lessen your fatigue and improve your
ability to function.
How long will the effects last?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is not well understood or easily
treated. You may continue to have the symptoms for months or
years. Usually, the symptoms are most severe during the
How can I take care of myself?
Rest as much as possible while you and your health
care provider try to treat the illness.
Follow the treatment prescribed by your health care
Follow your health care provider's recommendations
Do not smoke.
Eat healthy meals.
Learn to pace yourself to avoid fatigue. Prioritize
your activities each day. Do the most important ones in
the morning when your energy level may be higher. It
doesn't matter if everything doesn't get done in 1 day.
Ask for help at home and at work when the load is too
great to handle. Take frequent rest breaks during the
day to relax or walk.
Engage in recreational activities at least once or
twice a week.
Join local support groups. Talking with others who
have similar problems can really help.
If nothing helps, you may wish to get a second medical
For more information, contact:
What can be done to help prevent fatigue?
See your health care provider if you have any unusual or
persistent body changes or symptoms. This will allow your
provider to identify and treat any underlying health
problems early and help prevent your fatigue from becoming