Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

From hibernation directly to spring tiredness: for many people more of an apology than a serious illness. But for an estimated 300, 000 people in Germany, the phrase "I'm so terribly tired" bitter truth: you can not recover.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The term derives from American English, where the "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" was described in the early eighties. In Germany sometimes the term "burnout syndrome" is used.

In the meantime, the term "Chronic Fatigue / Immune Dysfunction Syndrome" (CFIDS) has been taken into account in the USA because it may be the cause of the disease.

CFS: Mysterious and multi-layered

Initially, CFS is flu-like. Patients complain of throat and headaches, muscle and joint pain. There are also memory disorders, which can be severe, and significant concentration disorders.

There are a number of other symptoms that can be individually different, such as fever, sleep problems, and nausea. The decisive factor for the naming was the years of paralyzing exhaustion of the patients, which could not be eliminated by sleep and rest.

These people lack the energy for the simplest tasks of daily life. Whether you are cooking coffee or brushing your teeth, the affected people are torturously dragging their way through the day. In addition to the illness-related complaints, they have to accept significant restrictions on their social environment.

Diagnosis and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome

The variety of symptoms and their individual combinations is one of the reasons why CFS is so difficult to diagnose. There is no single symptom that can be used to diagnose CFS. The numerous complaints are insufficiently scientific.

The focus of the diagnosis is therefore a heavy, long-lasting fatigue that can not be resolved. Other illnesses that cause similarly severe exhaustion must be excluded. These include fibromyalgia (a rheumatic disease), leukemia (blood cancer) or mental disorders such as depression.

If all other options are excluded, the following internationally recognized diagnostic criteria apply:

  • Long-term or recurring fatigue over six months, which does not change with bed rest and limits daily activity by more than 50 percent
  • Slight fever, sore throat
  • Painful lymph nodes
  • muscle aches
  • Lack of concentration, depression
  • Blurred vision, forgetfulness, increased irritability
  • Deterioration of the condition for more than 24 hours after effort

If all criteria come together and all other possible diseases are safely excluded, CFS can be talked about. Studies in the US show that those affected had a particularly active life before their illness. Most patients are between 30 to 50 years old. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

Therapy of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The treatment of the chronic fatigue syndrome is just as difficult as the diagnosis. There is no single drug that helps. On the contrary, a gentle treatment of the symptoms is recommended in which the dosage of the drugs used is often still below the usual minimum dosage. Many CFS patients are more sensitive to medication.

Balanced nutrition, regular sleep and rest periods, the rehabilitation of diseased teeth and elimination of existing infections are part of the treatment plan.

There is currently no reliable information on the course of the disease or on chances of recovery. British researchers estimate that 35 percent of those affected recover slowly but steadily. However, this and possibly a complete improvement will last for years.

Coping with illness usually requires help

Great emphasis is placed on mental health care because patients need expert support in coping with their condition. Often, after the onset of treatment, there is a period when the impairments are particularly pronounced: many patients can only lie in bed and are unable to take care of themselves.

The aim of a treatment is to use the remaining energy reserves as meaningfully as possible. For those affected and their environment, this means adapting their lifestyle to the disease, which depends on the particular form of the day and the individual assessment of the respective patient.

CFS: cause and research

The exact causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are unknown. Researchers discuss numerous variants: Viruses, fungi or environmental toxins can be the trigger. Likewise hormonal disorders as well as a permanent mental or physical overload come into question.

Among other things, researchers are interested in a protein that is normally produced by the body during virus defense. This protein is greatly increased in many but not all CFS patients. But whether this way a virus involvement in the chronic fatigue syndrome can be determined is still unclear.

However, some experts believe that it is a disorder similar to an autoimmune disease that usually occurs as a result of infection. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system is directed by a false control against the body's own structures such as cells or receptors. Recent studies also point to a disturbed energy metabolism out.

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