Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is nowadays called ME / CFS. ME stands for myalgic encephalitis (ME): this means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord with muscle pain. CFS means chronic fatigue syndrome. Both these names do not fully correspond to the clinical picture of patients with ME / CFS, a combination of names is closest.

You can be chronically tired, but you don’t have ME / CFS. According to the Dutch Health Council, there is ME / CFS when, in addition to chronic fatigue, you also suffer from additional complaints.        

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS)

With ME / CFS you suffer from extreme fatigue for a period of longer than six months without there being a clear physical cause. The fatigue is experienced as total exhaustion and is compared with the fatigue associated with serious chronic diseases. Due to extreme fatigue, daily activities such as working, exercising and undertaking social activities take a lot of effort.

In addition to fatigue, ME / CFS often also has additional complaints. Symptoms that occur with ME / CFS are:

  • Exercise tolerance (PEM): after a little physical or mental exertion the symptoms worsen after a while.
  • Not being rested after sleeping.
  • Problems with brain functions: slow information processing, memory, and concentration problems.
  • Pain: sore throat, headache, muscle pain, and joint pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Decreased resistance: this allows you to fall ill faster and the recovery from illness takes longer.
  • Hypersensitivity to foods, medicines, light, noise, odor, and touches, among other things.
  • Sensitive lymph nodes in the neck and armpits.
  • Dizziness when getting up after sitting or lying down.
  • Sleep problems. 

How does chronic fatigue syndrome arise?

It is not known how ME / CFS occurs. There have been several statements about what causes the disorder. One of those assumptions is that a combination of physical, psychological and social factors can lead to the development of ME / CFS.

Another possible cause of ME / CFS could be problems with the central nervous system, the immune system and/or the metabolism. An infection with a virus or bacteria is also mentioned as the cause of ME / CFS.

Because no physical cause for ME / CFS has yet been established, no statements can be made as to what exactly causes the disease. 

Is it serious and what can you expect?

ME / CFS is a chronic condition. Because the cause of ME / CFS has not yet been established, there is also no treatment or medication available that can cure the condition. The treatment of ME / CFS is therefore aimed at relieving the patient’s symptoms.  

About 5-10% of patients with ME / CFS recover to the state they were in before they became ill. Children and young people have the greatest chance of recovery. The course of ME / CFS is often unpredictable because complaints often change (daily). ME / CFS, therefore, reduces the quality of life of the patient in many cases. Due to chronic fatigue complaints and regularly chronic pain, someone with ME / CFS can no longer function as before. These complaints combined with uncertainty about the course of the disease can cause depression, anxiety, and even social isolation. Treatment aimed at relieving the symptoms is important to improve the quality of life of the patient.

When to the doctor?

If you recognize the above symptoms for yourself for a longer period of time without being able to pinpoint the cause, it is advisable to go to the doctor. Another reason to make an appointment with the doctor is when you, in addition to long-term fatigue, also suffer from other complaints such as weight loss or unexplained pain in, for example, the joints or muscles.

Where can you go for chronic fatigue syndrome?

The treatment of ME / CFS is primarily aimed at relieving complaints. Medication can help with this. To improve the night’s sleep, the doctor or doctor may prescribe sleeping pills and pain can be relieved with pain killers. Because the symptoms vary widely, a combination of different treatment methods can work. Psychological help, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can also help in accepting and dealing with the disease.

What can you do yourself?

ME / CFS limits functioning in daily life. Working, meeting with social contacts and hobbies often cost (too) much energy. This can be very frustrating, especially when the (nearby) environment does not understand this. It helps to gain insight into the clinical picture so that both patients and loved ones can better cope with the complaints that the disorder entails.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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