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What is a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is common in civilised countries, being characterised by long periods of weariness, unabated even by long rest
I know that long periods of feeling overstrained can be a sign of the serious disease known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Can you tell me more? S. Smirnov, Terekhovka settlement, Dobrush District

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is common in civilised countries, being characterised by long periods of weariness, unabated even by long rest. It was first ‘coined’ as a diagnosis in 1988, with over 100,000 cases registered in the USA by 1990. About 80 percent of patients were women. The National Centre of Chronic Fatigue was then created. In Russia, the first article describing CFS as a professionally recognised pathology, caused by stress, appeared in 1991.

Occurrence of CFS is connected with the central nervous system, with the zone responsible for inhibitory processes becoming less active. It is often brought on by an overload of emotional or intellectual stimulation, to the detriment of physical activity. Those living in big cities are more likely to suffer:  businessmen, and those with high levels of responsibility (such as doctors and train or air traffic controllers). Contributing factors include poor sanitary-ecological conditions, chronic disease and viral infection. Symptoms tend to be a feeling a weakness, sluggishness and apathy, depression, fits of anger and aggression, with partial loss of memory.

The causes are still under investigation but nutrient deficiencies can be a contributing factor, especially lack of certain vitamins. Food allergies can play their part, as can excessive physical or mental load, and virus infection. The ‘virus theory’ is prevalent among experts at present, with particular reference to Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, human herpesvirus 6, coxsackie virus, hepatitis C, enterovirus, and retrovirus.

CFS symptoms often appear after the patient has appeared to suffer from flu, or herpesviruses have been detected. Meanwhile, immunological indicators have been found during laboratory research. Muscle pain is common, at least partially, as a consequence of the abnormal interchange of energy in cells. Fatigue may abate after some period of holiday or rest but will return when working again at full capacity.

Consult your doctor if you believe you are suffering from several symptoms:

  •  defective memory or ability to concentrate;
  •  pharyngitis (sore throat);
  •  inflamed lymph nodes on the neck and in axillary regions;
  •  inexplicable muscular pain;
  •  pain in joints (without swelling or reddening);
  •  headache;
  •  insomnia;
  •  extreme exhaustion last more than 24 hours after a usual working or educational day.

It can be difficult to diagnose CFS, since symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. Your doctor should first exclude other possible diseases. CFS is usually diagnosed when 4-8 of the above listed symptoms have continued for at least 6 months. CFS is often accompanied by depression.

Treatment is no easy matter, and requires regular monitoring by your doctor. The programme tends to include:

  •  a greater balance between rest and physical activity;
  •  a calorie restricted diet;
  •  full-body or segmental massage (together with hydro-procedures and physiotherapy);
  •  psycho-emotional or psycho-therapeutic sessions;
  •  medication, such as day tranquilisers, antidepressants, enterosorbents, or antihistamines (in cases of allergy);
  •  elimination of symptoms limiting oxygen uptake (such as a blocked nose).

To prevent development of CFS, try to take regular physical exercise (to improve the function of your heart, lungs and muscles). Take up a new hobby, to divert your mind from study or work issues. Similarly, spend time with friends, or go to an exhibition, or to the theatre. Try to understand what is disturbing you, so that you can, little by little, tackle the source of your stress. Learn to relax, such as by trying yoga, focused breathing, exercises for muscular relaxation, massage or meditation. Avoid sleeping pills, which can cause addiction, and give up drinking alcohol and smoking.

By Tatiana Zhukova
Doctor of higher category, M.D. Ph.D.
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