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Article title: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: NWHIC
Conditions: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is characterized by persistent and debilitating fatigue and additional nonspecific symptoms such as sore throat, headache, tender muscles, joint pain, difficulty thinking and loss of short-term memory. Initial symptoms mimic the flu: on physical examination, patients may have nonspecific findings such as low-grade fever and redness of the throat, but frequently no abnormalities are found. No laboratory test or panel of tests is available to diagnose CFS so the diagnosis is made solely on clinical grounds. The cause of CFS is unknown.
Approximately 80 percent of those diagnosed with CFS are women, most of whom are white and between the ages of 25 and 45 years.
Treatment for CFS should be initiated only after the possibility of another disease has been excluded. No medication has been shown to be effective for curing CFS. The standard of treatment is to treat the symptoms. Most experts recommend a regimen of adequate rest, balanced diet, and physical conditioning. Moderate exercise is generally helpful to minimize loss of physical conditioning, but patients should avoid over-exertion since this can lead to relapses of severe fatigue and other symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can be useful for treating headache, and muscle and joint pain.
Because clinical trials have found patients with fibromyalgia (an illness similar to CFS) benefit from low-dose tricyclic anti-depressants, tricyclics are widely prescribed for people with CFS with generally favorable results.
You can find out more about chronic fatigue syndrome by contacting the following organizations:
This information was abstracted from fact sheets prepared by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Fact Sheet on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CFS Home Page).
All material contained in the FAQs is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the sources is appreciated.
Publication date: 1998
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