Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Part One

A major threat to health, happiness and productivity, Chronic Fatigue is a disease thought to affect some 250,000 people in the UK. But what causes it? That is yet to be discovered, but research offers increasing hope.

The symptoms
People have argued for years whether Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be considered as a genuine illness, with some even referring to it as ‘yuppie flu.’ However, as those who are unable to work, sustain relationships or even leave the house will tell you, it's very real. It can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in the 25-45 age group, and those who are most likely to suffer are women (making up an estimated 85 per cent of cases).

But what are the symptoms? The main sign is severe persistent fatigue that’s not improved by sleep, and is worsened by physical or mental activity, but there are also many others, such as:

• short-term memory or concentration impairment
• muscle and/or joint pain without inflammation
• dizziness or nausea/ unrefreshing sleep or insomnia
• headaches of a new type, pattern or severity

Some CFS patients also experience other symptoms which include abdominal and chest pain, shortness of breath, depression and anxiety, and weight loss. As a result of there being so many symptoms, it can sometimes take a while to diagnose. Cases of CFS can vary in severity and for some people the symptoms are mild and manageable.

If you feel that you may have CFS, then it would be worth going to your GP for blood and urine tests to rule out any other conditions. This disease is only diagnosed by exclusion and its presentation is similar to other illnesses such as fibromyalgia, lupus and thyroid problems. 

Possible causes
The World Health Organization and the Department of Health classify CFS as a chronic neurological condition. However, the UK's divided; there are those who believe it’s a psychological condition and those who feel it’s biological. It’s highly likely that both are true. Additionally to this, some believe that there is also a genetic link; that symptoms are triggered by viral illness, depression or stress and then they spiral.

Other possible causes include malfunctioning of the hypothalamic pituitary gland, and underperforming adrenal or thyroid glands.