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What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Imagine feeling tired and worn down all the time. You try to sleep more, but it doesn't make a difference. This is a real condition called chronic fatigue syndrome and it affects many people.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that causes a person to feel extremely tired and fatigued all the time, no matter how much (or little) sleep they get. This condition was only first defined in 1994 and requires that an individual has experienced unusual, unexplained fatigue for longer than six months, the fatigue worsens with normal daily activity, and the fatigue is accompanied by a number of additional symptoms (listed below).

People with chronic fatigue syndrome never feel rested, no matter how much sleep they get or caffeine they consume.
chronic fatigue syndrome

Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Unfortunately, we don't know much about this syndrome. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what causes chronic fatigue syndrome to develop in the first place, though they think multiple triggers may work in tandem with one another. These could include viral or bacterial infections, immune disorders, low blood pressure, nutritional deficiency, hormone imbalance, and chronic stress.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In addition to feeling unusual and unexplained fatigue for a consecutive period longer than six months, the exhaustion worsens with normal daily activity and is accompanied by at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Sleep that doesn't make a difference in fatigue levels
  • Even worse exhaustion following activity that lasts longer than 24 hours
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Tender lymph nodes found in the neck or armpits
  • Muscle pain
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Joint pain (not accompanied by swelling)

Because symptoms are overwhelming, chronic fatigue syndrome drastically affects the quality of daily life for the person suffering from it. They have less energy to face daily tasks and even the simplest of activities wears them out to the point they need to stop and rest. Even scarier than the fact that the exact cause is still unknown is the fact that symptoms can last for years.

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