What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition that produces a long-lasting tiredness, achiness, and general lack of energy. The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not known. Many scientific studies have linked chronic fatigue syndrome to viral infections, such as infections with the Epstein-Barr virus, but a definitive association has not been established.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Spotlight

People with chronic fatigue syndrome often find that they become exhausted after minor exertion. Activities that they once considered to be normal activities of daily life may become impossible or extremely difficult. Along with these symptoms of easy fatigability, many people experience other symptoms, such as a generalized achiness, low-grade fevers, and in some cases, night sweats.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a clinical diagnosis. That is, there are no specific laboratory tests that can diagnose it. The diagnosis is established through a doctor’s clinical judgment. While treatments are available, none of them can cure the condition. The foundation of treatment is what doctors refer to as supportive care. Supportive care consists of good nutrition and hydration, treatment of pain with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and most importantly, rest.

While improvement is often slow, chronic fatigue syndrome generally resolves spontaneously. Most people experience improvement over a course of weeks to months. In a small minority of cases, chronic fatigue syndrome can become a long-lasting problem.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience severe fatigue that is new for you, does not go away, and seems to have no obvious cause; if you are experiencing fatigue that is far more severe than you’ve ever experienced or that interferes with your other activities; or if you are being treated for chronic fatigue syndrome, but symptoms recur or are persistent. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, experience serious symptoms, such as depression that is severe enough to give you suicidal thoughts.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include various unusual forms of exhaustion that are fairly specific and help to rule out other disorders that can cause fatigue.... Read more about chronic fatigue syndromesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes chronic fatigue syndrome?

It is not known what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. Certain theories suggest it may be caused by a virus, but no specific virus has been linked to the disorder. Some studies theorize that it may be caused by a nervous system inflammation or immune response, or that previous illnesses, stress, environment, or genetics may have an influence on its development.... Read more about chronic fatigue syndromecauses

TREATMENTS

How is chronic fatigue syndrome treated?

There is not yet a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but its symptoms are treatable. Depression and other psychological problems that are associated with the debilitation and isolation which chronic fatigue syndrome can cause can also be treated.... Read more about chronic fatigue syndrometreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases


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