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Shannon Koehle: Demystifying Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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By Shannon Koehle
EmpowHer's Health Reporter

Affecting more people than lung and breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome has become most prevalent among women.

As the Center for Disease Control says, “Women seem to be at greater risk for developing CFS, with four times more cases reported in women than in men.”

However, with more than four million people in the United States who have CFS, less than 20 percent have been diagnosed, says the CDC.

With symptoms ranging from unexplained persistent fatigue with no relief after rest to muscle pain and tender lymph nodes, CFS contains many symptoms that mimic conditions such as mononucleosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and chronic Lyme disease among others.

For this reason, CFS should not be self diagnosed.

However, a medical diagnosis is not a quick process either.

As the Mayo Clinic states, “There’s no diagnostic or laboratory procedure to confirm the presence of chronic fatigue syndrome.”

With no test specifically for CFS and an unknown cause of origin, all other possible conditions must be ruled out before a CFS diagnosis is confirmed.

Additional symptoms of CFS include impaired memory or concentration, difficulty sleeping, multi-joint pain, headaches, sore throats, and gastrointestinal problems, says the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America.

For those diagnosed with CFS, severity varies greatly. While some patients are limited to bed-rest, others are able to maintain daily activities like working.

However, for those with more severe symptoms many patients experience feelings of guilt, anger, denial, anxiety, or depression because of the limitations put on their lives, says the CDC.

“For patients with CFS, learning to manage activity levels is key to managing the illness itself,” they say.

While patients are unable to tolerate traditional exercises, keeping active is essential. In fact, avoiding activity and exercise may actually worsen a person’s symptoms.

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