Chronic fatigue syndrome is more than just being tired all the time. It’s a pervasive tiredness, one that merely resting does nothing to alleviate. In particular, CFS has nine characteristics. Symptoms are loss of concentration, a sore throat, unexplained muscle pain, fatigue, sleep that isn’t restorative, exhaustion that lasts more than 24 hours, joint pain without swelling that moves around, swollen lymph nodes, and new and unfamiliar headaches. Tiredness and at least four other symptoms need to be present for a diagnosis of CFS to be made.
Although CFS is a recognized medical condition, it is difficult to diagnose. Even if all the symptoms are present, a diagnosis generally isn’t made unless other possible causes are ruled out. Ordinary sleep disorders, for example, often cause fatigue, as do many medical conditions. Muscle ache is also a symptom of a number of medical conditions, and that possibility is typically explored. However, a new study suggests that some cases of CFS can be recognized by looking for certain viral infections that are otherwise dormant.
The study suggested that in these cases, CFS is the result of an excessive immune response to Epstein-Barr virus, which is ordinarily associated with mononucleosis and some other illnesses. The virus doesn’t always go away; instead, it merely becomes inactive. When it reawakens in the blood, this can lead to CFS. However, there appear to be a number of other causes as well, not all of them known. Immune impairment of some kind appears to be linked with CFS, but what causes this impairment cannot always be found. However, a controversial hypothesis that a virus called XMRV was a cause of the condition has proven unfounded.
There are no medical treatments that offer complete relief, but antidepressants and sleep aids can make the condition more bearable. Psychological counseling can help patients negotiate the limitations the condition places on them. Destressing one’s life is a useful coping mechanism, and stretching exercises can help with the aches and pains; yoga includes elements of both and is recommended for chronic fatigue patients.