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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition involving deep fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, and a worsening of symptoms after exertion. Its exact cause is unknown, but it is believed that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors bring it about. With no simple test to identify it available, diagnosis is based on the symptoms and exclusion of other causes. Treatment is aimed at modifying your lifestyle and relieving symptoms with medications and therapies. The condition is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID).
Every person with chronic fatigue syndrome has his or her own unique set of symptoms, the intensity of which can vary. The symptoms that are required for the diagnosis of ME/CFS are fatigue, post-exertional malaise, and sleep problems. In addition, either cognitive impairment (brain fog) or a worsening of symptoms while you are upright (orthostatic intolerance) must be noted.
The fatigue and drop in activity level must be present for at least six months. The characteristics of the fatigue must include that it is not relieved by sleep or rest, it isn't the result of strenuous exertion, and it significantly lowers your ability to function normally in most situations. Your symptoms may worsen for 24 hours to days or even weeks after physical or mental exertion.
Other common symptoms include:
- Sudden and distinct onset, especially following a flu-like illness
- Pain, including muscle aches, joint aches, or headaches
- Flu-like symptoms that may include a sore throat, swollen lymph glands, or low-grade fever
- Sensitivities and intolerances to heat, cold, noise, light, or alcohol
There can be many additional symptoms including anxiety or a sensation of irregular heartbeat. Common overlapping conditions include depression, irritable bowel syndrome, tinnitus, premenstrual syndrome, and endometriosis.
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