Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a disorder or groups of disorders that is characterized by the onset of fatigue that persists for more than 6 months. It is characterized by a host of symptoms that range from muscle and joint pains to decreased ability to perform even the least demanding activities.
This syndrome is diagnosed by examining the symptoms of an individual against two groups of symptoms which are commonly demonstrated by CFS patients.
The first sign that healthcare professionals look for is the persisting chronic fatigue that is not related to any other condition that results to exhaustion. Tolerance to fatigue among CFS patients is very low, thus they get severely exhausted after performing even the simplest and least demanding of tasks. In fact, it is not uncommon for CFS patients to move from one place to another without feeling drained.
Most of them also get sick for several days to several weeks after performing minor activities. Most of them also exhibit flu-like symptoms after performing low intensity tasks.
The second criteria for establishing the presence of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is the onset of four of any of the following symptoms: myalgia or muscle pains, arthralgia or joint pains in multiple locations, head aches of more serious severity, persistent soar throat which recurs, tenderness of the cervical and axillary lymph nodes, impaired short-term memory and concentration, malaise which is experienced after physical exertion, and sleep disturbance.
Other symptoms that healthcare professionals look for are abdominal pain, bloating, dizziness, nausea, chronic cough, chest pains, shortness of breath, dryness of the mouth and eyes, weight loss, onset of minor and major psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, irritability and panic attacks, diarrhea, alcohol intolerance and skin and tingling sensations.
Diagnosis is facilitated only after all conditions that are known to produce the aforementioned symptoms are ruled out. In general, healthcare professionals encounter difficulty in diagnosing chronic fatigue syndromes due to the similarities and generality of symptoms it presents. Apart from the fact that fatigue is a common result of many diseases, it is also a very common sign of most chronic conditions. CFS also presents no symptoms that are visible and obvious enough for easy identification.
On top of these, there are also no diagnostic and laboratory tests that can help in establishing the presence of the disorder. Patients of CFS also display varying symptoms and level of severity which makes most patient experience differences in symptoms and severity. However through exclusion of the following factors, most doctors can arrive at a diagnosis:
- The presentation of identifiable conditions that result to fatigue and decreased level of activities. Most doctors look for symptoms of hypothyroidism, a condition wherein the thyroid produces lower levels of thyroid hormones. Other notable conditions that may exhibit symptoms similar with CFS are lupus, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, mononucleosis or kissing disease, depression and diabetes.
- The usage of medications that result to fatigue. Obviously, there are a number of medications, drugs and substances that can cause physical exhaustion.
- Recurrence of previous diseases, disorders and illness that can produce extreme exhaustion such as cancer.
- Substance abuse, more specifically excessive alcohol consumption.
- Obesity which is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) or more than 45.