Answers FAQ

Chronic Fatigue FAQs

Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

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Q:The term chronic in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) means what?

A:Long term. By definition, a chronic disease is one that persists for a long time, typically lasting three months or more. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines nor do they simply disappear. There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome.

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Q:People in their 40s and 50s are most at risk for CFS. True or False?

A:True. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) affects more than 1 million people in the United States, and research indicates that CFS is most common in people in their 40s and 50s.

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Q:Which conditions may mimic symptoms of CFS?

A:Hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, Depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and Hormonal problems, obesity, alcohol, substance abuse. There are many illnesses that can mimic symptoms of CFS. These include hypothyroidism, sleep apnea and narcolepsy, major depressive disorders, chronic mononucleosis, bipolar affective disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, cancer, autoimmune diseases, hormonal disorders, subacute infections, obesity, alcohol or substance abuse, and reactions to prescribed medications.

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Q:Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can include joint pain, muscle pain, and sore throat. True or False?

A:True. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can include joint pain, muscle pain, and sore throat.

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Q:How is chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosed?

A:There is no diagnostic laboratory test for CFS. There is no diagnostic laboratory test for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). People who suffer the symptoms of CFS must be carefully evaluated by a physician because many medical and psychiatric conditions mimic CFS.

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Q:Depression and chronic fatigue syndrome often coexist. True or False?

A:True. Chronic fatigue syndrome is not caused by depression, although the two illnesses often coexist in a patient. It is important to note that many patients with CFS have no psychiatric disorder.

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Q:What are the treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome?

A:Management and relief of symptoms and physical therapy. Since there is no known cure for CFS, treatment is aimed at relief of symptoms and symptom management, which can include lifestyle changes and physical therapy.

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Q:Who is most affected by chronic fatigue syndrome: Women or Men?

A:Women. CFS affects women at four times the rate of men.

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Q:CFS can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis and congestive heart failure. True or False?

A:True. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and their consequences can be severe. CFS can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure, and other conditions.

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Q:When is chronic fatigue syndrome most likely to develop?

A:Chronic fatigue syndrome is likely to develop without warning, after a period of illness and after unusual stress. In some cases, CFS develops after an illness such as mononucleosis, influenza (flu), or after a period of unusual stress. Chronic fatigue syndrome may also develop without warning, even if you have not been sick.

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Q:Children do not develop chronic fatigue syndrome. True or False?

A:False. Although CFS is much less common in children than in adults, children can develop the illness, particularly during the teen years.

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Q:What is the medical definition for fatigue?

A:Fatigue is the reduced capacity for work or accomplishment. Fatigue, in medical terminology, refers to the state of reduced capacity for work or accomplishment following a period of mental or physical activity.

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Q:Which disease has symptoms most similar to chronic fatigue syndrome?

A:Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia symptoms are most similar to chronic fatigue syndrome. Fibromyalgia does not cause sore throat or lymph gland swelling as is seen in chronic fatigue syndrome.

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Q:Increased irritability and a shortened temper are symptoms of CFS. True or False?

A:False. Increased irritability leading to a shortened temper is not a characteristic of CFS. In addition to fatigue, CFS includes characteristic symptoms, such as postexertional malaise (relapse of symptoms after physical or mental exertion); unrefreshing sleep; substantial impairment in memory/concentration; pain; and/or headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity.

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