BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – When someone who’s been diagnosed with the flu, COVID, or a similar illness says they’re too tired to do anything more than rest, this is generally considered understandable.
But a condition that impacts approximately 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans and has a similar fatiguing effect is often dismissed and not taken seriously by the general public.
Many who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome say acquaintances, employers, and even family members have accused them of being “lazy” or “flaky,” instead of empathizing with their health-related battle.
One patient said, “The illness was mostly seen by my employer as simply an inability to cope with stress.”
Another lamented, “Despite being recognized/listed as a neurological condition by the World Health Organization and the Department of Health, it has been my sad experience that help for people with this illness is few and far between. Patients like myself, and their carers, are still being met with disbelief and stigmatism by some of the medical profession, and in some cases treatment which is incredibly poor, inappropriate and inexcusable.”
So, what exactly is Chronic Fatigue? And, is there any treatment for it?
Defining Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is still unclear, but its symptoms are well-defined.
CFS is commonly known as a disease that causes profound exhaustion, sleep abnormalities, pain, dizziness, memory problems, and other symptoms that are worsened by exertion.
Experts say its primary symptom is an unceasing and relentless feeling of fatigue that lasts for more than six months and doesn’t improve with rest.
Though there is currently no cure for CFS, doctors often recommend therapies that focus on relieving symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, such therapies may include:
Medications that treat:
Depression- Many people with long-term health problems, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, are also depressed. Treating your depression can make it easier for you to cope with the problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Low doses of some antidepressants can also help improve sleep and relieve pain.
Orthostatic intolerance- Some people with chronic fatigue syndrome, particularly adolescents, feel faint or nauseated when they stand or sit upright. Medications to regulate blood pressure or heart rhythms may be helpful.
Pain- If over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) don’t help enough, prescription drugs sometimes used to treat fibromyalgia might be options for you. These include pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), amitriptyline or gabapentin (Neurontin).
Other therapies that address:
Counseling- Talking with a counselor can help build coping skills to deal with chronic illness, address limitations at work or school, and improve family dynamics. It can also be helpful for managing depression.
Sleep problems- Sleep deprivation can make other symptoms more difficult to deal with. Your doctor might suggest avoiding caffeine or changing your bedtime routine. Sleep apnea can be treated by using a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep.
Fitness routines- Aggressive exercise regimens often lead to worsened symptoms, but maintaining activities that are tolerated is important to prevent deconditioning. Exercise regimens that start at a very low intensity and increase very gradually over time may be helpful in improving long-term function.
Though experts have much to learn about the root cause of CFS, some patients who battle the illness say they experience a measure of relief by sticking to a healthy diet, getting regular sleep, regular exercising (when possible), and staying hydrated.
An empathetic group of friends and family members can also be helpful when it comes to reminding the sufferer to be patient with themselves and not push themselves too much.
Local help for people with CFS
Click here to view a list of Baton Rouge-based physicians who specialize in helping patients with CFS.