Wish you could get back to the way you were? Feel sick but don’t look sick? Can’t concentrate? Always tired? Dizzy when you stand or lie down? Resting doesn’t help? If this started a while ago, and just won’t go away, seek advice from your doctor.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is difficult to diagnose and can be confused with other conditions. Depression, cardiovascular conditions, and chronic pain may cause the same symptoms, or co-exist with ME/CFS. Having chronic fatigue is debilitating, taking away who you used to be or the things you used to do. Simple tasks such as preparing to go out or work become impossible due to exhaustion, pain or dizziness. If this change to debilitation persists beyond six months, ME/CFS may be suspected.
Cause of ME/CFS is not known, and it may have different origins or triggers. Studies are pointing to triggers from our immune system, infections, stress hormones, changes in other hormones, and possibly a genetic link. The condition is complex and because the cause is not known, there is no cure.
Treatment is based on the symptoms and addressing the cause where possible. So if you can’t sleep, treatment may include sleep hygiene and perhaps the addition of medication. Proper sleep, activity and rest are an essential start. Should symptoms still not resolve, expect a full-360 evaluation of your vitals and lab work to rule out other causes. ME/CFS is diagnosed by elimination, ticking off all issues, and observing for improvement.
Key pointers to ME/CFS include:
- Has a defined start, isn’t a lifetime problem
- Can’t do things you used to do
- Get dizzy when you sit, stand or lie down
- Can’t focus or remember
- Have had symptoms for several months which won’t go away even with proper sleep/rest
- post-exertional malaise – worsens when there is physical, mental or emotional stress and lasts for hours, even days.
- May have muscle or joint pain, headache, or flu-like symptoms
- More common in aged 30 to 60, and more likely in women
The challenge with ME/CFS is that it’s not known what causes it and there’s no cure. There is no test for ME/CFS, and it is easily confused with other conditions.
Know that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome does exist, so that you can start seeking treatment for your symptoms. ME/CFS is an invisible disability with life-altering symptoms. It’s not just in your head. Successful treatment of symptoms may need to involve more than one health professional and may also include alternative medicines and health practices. Did you know your pharmacist can help you with referrals and discuss alternative health care practices that are available? Even though ME/CFS has no cure, symptoms may be managed to get you back on your feet.