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Beyond exhaustion: understanding chronic fatigue syndrome

Last Modified: May 13, 2024

Family Medicine, Diseases & Disorders

This post was written by Priya Hotwani, MD, PPG – Internal Medicine, Parkview Residency Center.

Most people have felt exhausted for one reason, whether it be due to lack of sleep, stress or overexertion. However, unlike normal tiredness, for individuals living with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), it's like having a low battery that never fully recharges. The exhaustion can become debilitating, often leading to a lower quality of life and worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. For a clearer understanding, we’ll go over the causes and symptoms of CFS, who is most vulnerable and strategies for managing its long-term effects.

Overview of chronic fatigue syndrome

Also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), CFS is a complex medical condition characterized by persistent and unexplained fatigue that does not improve with rest. 

The long-term effects of this condition can be challenging and vary widely. For some, CFS can significantly impact their quality of life, leading to reduced physical and cognitive function and limited ability to perform daily activities. Others may experience changes in their mental health, causing feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression

Additional symptoms that accompany CFS could include: 

For individuals experiencing prolonged fatigue and other symptoms, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management.

Who is most vulnerable?

There is no known specific cause of CFS at this time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that another chronic illness or event may trigger myalgic encephalomyelitis. 

Although CFS can affect anyone, healthcare providers more commonly diagnose women aged 40-50 with this condition. Additional factors that could contribute to a heightened risk of developing CFS include:

While these factors may heighten risk, CFS remains a complex condition with multifaceted origins. Understanding these triggers and implementing strategies to control them is crucial for improving the quality of life with CFS.

Treating CFS at home

Prioritizing self-care and listening to one's body can minimize the impact of these exacerbating factors and help people better cope with the challenges of CFS.

Start with lifestyle adjustments like pacing activities to manage energy levels, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and incorporating gentle exercises like yoga or walking. Then, focus on stress management techniques, nourishing foods, and staying hydrated to support the body's natural healing processes.

Small, sustainable changes can make a big difference in managing CFS symptoms from home. 

When to seek medical attention

Additional medical attention should be sought if symptoms like unrefreshing sleep, cognitive difficulties or muscle pain persist, disrupt daily life or worsen over time. 

A primary care provider can conduct a proper evaluation and advise management interventions. In addition to lifestyle modifications and nutritional support, practical strategies for CFS management can consist of: 

Don't hesitate to reach out if you have concerns. Early intervention can lead to better outcomes in managing CFS symptoms. 

Closing remarks

In addition to seeking medical attention, it is crucial to keep track of symptoms, triggers and any patterns you notice. This information can help healthcare providers tailor a treatment plan to your unique situation. While there's ongoing research into effective treatments and management strategies, living with CFS can be a long-term journey that requires patience, support and understanding. 

Include a resident physician as part of your internal medicine care team 

The Parkview Residency Center offers the unique opportunity to have a resident physician as part of your care team. Patients with a resident physician as part of their care team have access to:

  • An individualized care plan with oversight by two highly qualified physicians.
  • The latest health information, practices and treatments.
  • Focused attention to help you achieve your health goals, such as understanding your personal test results.

For more information, visit  

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