Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Overview

Written by: SphynxCatVP
Link to original: http://sphynxcatvp.nocturna.org/health/sc-chronicfatigue.html

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, gets mentioned a lot on various real vampire forums. Some websites even list it as a symptom, I suspect primarily because of the "lack of energy" feeling many CFS patients have. This article will go into some of the known details of CFS, and list some of the ailments that mimic some of the symptoms.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

CFS is named for it's primary symptom: absolutely all-encompassing tiredness or exhaustion that has lasted at least 6 months, and does NOT improve with rest. This fatigue is so severe that it interferes with the patient's ability to work (they may have lost their job, or are unable to find or keep a job), play and many social activities. Fatigue and other related symptoms may begin suddenly or they may develop gradually over weeks or months.

CFS is traditionally supposed to be a "disease of exclusion" - meaning, the doctors or other medical staff MUST have ruled out any other possible causes FIRST before settling on a CFS diagnosis. Many doctors, however, often think of CFS first - when they shouldn't - especially if the patient comes in and says "I have chronic fatigue".

(Remember, if you give the doctor a diagnosis for what seems like a pre-existing condition, they're not going to work very hard to find the real cause - they'll assume your "diagnosis" is correct, even if turns out to be wrong later.)

What are the symptoms of CFS?

In addition to all-encompassing fatigue, symptoms may include any or all of the following, in addition to others not listed here:

  • Exhaustion
  • Forgetfulness, memory loss, confusion, or difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches that are different from other headaches you have had in the past/li>
  • Joint pain without redness or swelling
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Panic attacks
  • Tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits.
  • Unrefreshing sleep (waking up feeling tired or not rested).

To be diagnosed with CFS, all other potential causes need to be ruled out, and you must have had at least 4 of these symptoms lasting 6 months or more. However, if you don't quite meet these criteria (such as symptoms lasting less than 6 months), CFS may still be a suspected diagnosis, depending on the medical professional, and treatment may be recommended or administered accordingly.

CFS has both cognitive (thinking) and skeletal muscle components. If there is no impact on your thinking, then CFS should NOT be a diagnosis.

Remember, pain is exhausting to deal with, especially on a long-term or 24/7 basis. ANYTIME there is pain involved, you MUST identify the correct source of the pain - it may mean life or death if something like cancer is involved. (Cancer generally comes with fatigue to begin with, but late stage cancer may present with all or most of the symptoms of CFS listed above, due to its impact on the body.)

What causes CFS?

The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is unknown. Some researchers suspect it may be caused by a virus, such as Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6), however no specific virus has been identified as the cause. Patients often report having some variety of infectious ailment before the CFS symptoms appeared.

Studies suggest that CFS may be caused by inflammation affecting the nervous system, and that this inflammation may be due, in part, to some sort of immune response process.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes CFS as a distinct disorder with specific symptoms and physical signs, based on ruling out other possible causes. CFS most commonly occurs in women ages 30 to 50, but is not unheard of in men, or in people older or younger than this age range. Other factors such as age, prior illness, stress, environment, or genetics may also play a role.

What other diseases can cause (at least some) of these symptoms?

CFS causes symptoms that are the same as many other diseases, especially early on. For this reason, it can be diagnosed only after a thorough evaluation has ruled out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Routine bloodwork will catch issues such as liver or kidney disease. CT scans and MRIs may be done if nothing concrete shows up via the bloodwork. If cancer is suspected, PET scans may be done if the doctor is willing to order them. Because the immune system is affected in many CFS patients, there are higher-than-normal levels of antibodies. This is not specific for CFS, but must be taken into account with all the other existing symptoms.

Proper diagnostics need to be run in order to eliminate other possible causes for the symptoms because some of these causes are potentially fatal if not treated properly. Some of these other causes include, but are not limited to:

  • Adrenal Insufficiency
  • Anemia
  • Brucellosis/li>
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
  • Chronic pain issues (cancer, arthritis, malfunctioning nerves, etc.)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestional problems
  • Gulf War Syndrome
  • HIV / AIDS infection
  • Infectious Mononucleosis
  • Joint pain
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Nightshade reactivity
  • Parasitic infections
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Polymyositis
  • Postpolio Syndrome
  • Protein Deficiency
  • Thyroid disease
  • Toxin exposure (chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, etc.)
  • Q Fever (Yes, that really IS the name!)

Some people with CFS develop a condition in which their heart rate increases and their blood pressure drops when they stand or sit up from a reclining position. This is often described as feeling "lightheaded" or feeling faint or dizzy, and is properly referred to as orthostatic hypotension.

Depression is common (because it's hard to keep your spirits up when you feel like crap most of the time) and MAY make your other existing symptoms worse. Being depressed can negatively affect the immune system (so you get sick more often) and for some people CFS itself seems to be part of an immune system problem. Also, depression will cause a feeling of fatigue all by itself.

Patients who have chronic pain issues - especially pain over all or most of the body - will also have chronic fatigue just from dealing with the pain all the time. This is why it's critical to find the source of the pain - if you can find the cause of the pain and fix it, then once the pain goes away, the fatigue likely will as well.

Rememer the hardest part of all this is finding a doctor or other medical professional who actually cares enough to find the real cause, not just slap a convenient diagnosis on you just because you arrived in their office.

How is CFS treated?

CFS is primarily treated symptomatically - there is currently no cure.

Some of the proposed treatments include:

  • Antibiotics if culture test is positive
  • Antiviral drugs (such as acyclovir)
  • Drugs to fight yeast infections (such as nystatin)
  • Medications to reduce pain, discomfort, and fever
  • Medications to treat anxiety (antianxiety drugs)
  • Medications to treat depression (antidepressant drugs)

Patients will likely be advised to:

  • Get plenty of excercise (to boost the immune system)
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Reduce stress as much as possible

What does this have to do with real vampires?

Because real vampires tend to feel fatigued when they haven't fed, "lack of energy" is oftimes mentioned as a symptom. Other people think real vampires who mention "lack of energy" must have CFS - however, CFS has it's own problems, and real vampirism typically does NOT share most of it's other symptoms.

Nutritional deficiencies should also be suspected, in addition to the list above, especially for people who think pizza and potato chips are a food group. :)