The NHS says that Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) causes persistent fatigue (exhaustion) that affects everyday life and doesn’t go away with sleep or rest.
CFS is also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis. Myalgia means muscle pain and encephalomyelitis means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Both CFS and ME are commonly used terms.
Sometimes the term ‘myalgic encephalopathy’ is used. Encephalopathy means a condition that affects brain function.
CFS is a serious condition that can cause long-term illness and disability, but many people in particular children and young people improve over time.
Anyone can get CFS, although it is more common in women than in men. It usually develops in the early 20s to mid-40s. Children can also be affected, usually between the ages of 13 and 15. It is estimated that around 250,000 people in the UK suffer from CFS.
Most cases of CFS are mild or moderate, but up to one in four people with CFS have severe symptoms where you are able to carry out minimal daily tasks, such as brushing your teeth, but you have significantly reduced mobility. You may also have difficulty concentrating.
It is not known exactly what causes CFS. Various theories have been suggested, include a viral infection, problems with the immune system, an imbalance of hormones or a psychiatric problem, such as stress and emotional trauma.
Some people are thought to be more susceptible to the condition due to their genes, as the condition is more common in some families.
There is no cure for CFS, so treatment aims to reduce the symptoms. Everyone with CFS responds to treatment differently, so your treatment plan will be tailored to the individual.
All of the above can also temporarily affect some people who suffer from Fibromyalgia. With Fibromyalgia chronic fatigue (not CFS) can come and goes at will. Sometimes it can be worse than other times, especially if you have been through a good patch as you then tend to overdo things a little.
Personally, when my chronic fatigue flares up, I find it totally debilitating and can feel too exhausted to even talk sometimes but it does pass and certainly does not last as long as CFS sufferers have to cope with.
The biggest stigma that is still attached to this problem is that you have nothing that people can see to show for how you are feeling, which can cause many problems with sufferers and medical professionals who are trying to diagnose it.
Hopefully in the not too distant future there will be an easier and simpler way to diagnose this condition just like we are finding with the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.