Identifying Common CFS Symptoms
- Note how long the symptoms have been present.Be aware of severe, debilitating fatigue that is not improved by rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that CFS can be defined as persistent fatigue that lasts longer than 6 months.
- Observe the level of fatigue.Fatigue is a normal response to physical and emotional activity.Feeling tired after exercising or after spending a long day at work is to be expected. Those with CFS often report extreme exhaustion 24 hours after mental or physical exertion.CFS can also cause fatigue even when you have not exerted yourself. If fatigue interferes with your work or social life, alters your motivation, interferes with your responsibilities, and is not helped by rest, you may have severe fatigue.
- Be aware of the physical symptoms.CFS can cause a variety of physical symptoms, and it is important to take note of how long they have been present, particularly if they have been persistent for more than 6 months. Let your doctor know if you experience these common CFS symptoms.
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain that moves from one joint to another without redness or inflammation
- Look for additional symptoms.While reported less frequently, individuals with CFS have noted symptoms other than the more common physical symptoms.If you experience any additional pain, discomfort, or mental health issues, let your doctor know.
- Some patients with CFS feel dizzy, faint, have balance problems, and have difficulty sitting upright.
- Others report developing new allergies or sensitivities to foods, odors, and medications.
- Notice any gastrointestinal or digestive changes, such as irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea.
- Patients with CFS have reported trouble with concentration and memory.
- Report any visual changes such as eye pain, blurred vision, or light sensitivity.
- If you experience any mood swings, symptoms of depression, or have panic attacks, talk to you doctor right away.
Getting a Diagnosis
- List your symptoms.Having documentation of your symptoms and their frequency is extremely helpful for your physician. Sharing this information can help your doctor understand your situation and work toward a diagnosis and treatment plan.Even if you think something may not be important, write it down. Any and all information can be useful for making a diagnosis of any kind.
- If you have been experiencing blurry vision, for example, track how frequently it happens, how long the symptoms last, if you felt any pain, and what you were doing right before the blurriness occurred.
- If you experience muscle aches, note how often the pain occurs, if the pain prevents you from doing your usual activities, or if any particular physical exertion causes the pain to worsen.
- Tell your doctor of any recent life changes.If you have undergone major life changes or have experienced high levels of stress, share this information with your doctor.Life events and stress can influence your overall health.
- Being stressed about your job security, going through a divorce, and losing a loved one are all examples of difficult, life-changing situations. Be sure to tell your physician if you have experienced these or any major stressful situations.
- Have a blood test.There is no single test that can determine if you have CFS, but your doctor will most likely recommend a blood test to help rule out any other illnesses. A blood test can check for a number of things, including hormone levels, thyroid and liver function, glucose levels, and your overall blood count.A trained professional will draw blood from your arm, which should only take a few minutes. Your doctor will receive the results of the tests within a few weeks and will review them with you.
- Take a friend or relative.It is easy to feel overwhelmed when visiting your physician, particularly if you are receiving a lot of new and potentially stressful information. Take a relative or friend to your appointment. He or she can help you remember the information your doctor shares, and he or she can help you ask necessary questions during the appointment.
Discussing Your Treatment Options
- Discuss medication options.Your doctor will adapt your treatment based upon your symptoms, so treatment can vary from patient to patient. You may be prescribed an antidepressant, such as Elavil or Wellbutrin, or sleeping pill, like Ambien, to help alleviate your symptoms. These can help you cope with feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression and help you get more restful sleep.
- Talk to a therapist.Cognitive behavior therapy and self-management methods have been shown to help patients with CFS. Cognitive behavior therapy is a common type of psychotherapy that is used to treat a wide variety of issues. Your doctor may recommend these options for you to cope with your symptoms.
- Over several, structured sessions, a therapist can help you cope with your symptoms and help you learn how to properly respond to the emotions and stress CFS can cause.
- Self-management programs are typically run by healthcare professionals. These programs highlight the importance of patient education and understanding to treat an illness. These tools can be useful when dealing with a chronic illness like CFS.
- Visit a physical therapist.Your doctor may recommend physical therapy as a treatment option for you. A physical therapist may have you do graded aerobic exercise, such as walking, stair-climbing, and cycling, which may help alleviate CFS symptoms.Daily, incremental activity under the supervision of a physical therapist may help improve your endurance and strength over time.
- Discuss alternative therapies.Although alternative therapies have not been verified by medical professionals, it has been noted that yoga, tai chi, or acupuncture can help reduce CFS symptoms. Always talk to your doctor about these alternate methods.
- Limit your caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake. These substances may be negatively influencing your sleep patterns.
- Avoid taking naps during the day. Naps may prevent you from getting a restful sleep at night.
- CFS can cause depression and feelings of isolation. CFS can also cause you to miss work, appointments, or social events. Be aware of these risks and be sure to share these experiences with your doctor.