Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (cont.)

Diagnosis of CFS

  • There are no physical signs that identify CFS

  • There are no diagnostic laboratory tests for CFS.

  • People who suffer the symptoms of CFS must be carefully evaluated by a physician because many treatable medical and psychiatric conditions are hard to distinguish from CFS. Common conditions that should be ruled out through a careful medical history and appropriate testing include mononucleosis, Lyme disease, thyroid conditions, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, various cancers, depression and bipolar disorder.

  • Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that less than 20% of CFS patients in this country have been diagnosed.

Treatment of CFS

  • Since there is no known cure for CFS, treatment is aimed at symptom relief and improved function. A combination of drug and nondrug therapies is usually recommended.

  • No single therapy exists that helps all CFS patients.

  • Lifestyle changes, including prevention of overexertion, reduced stress, dietary restrictions, gentle stretching and nutritional supplementation, are frequently recommended in addition to drug therapies used to treat sleep, pain and other specific symptoms.

  • Carefully supervised physical therapy may also be part of treatment for CFS. However, symptoms can be exacerbated by overly ambitious physical activity. A very moderate approach to exercise and activity management is recommended to avoid overactivity and to prevent deconditioning.

  • Although health care professionals may hesitate to give patients a diagnosis of CFS for various reasons, it's important to receive an appropriate and accurate diagnosis to guide treatment and further evaluation.

  • Delays in diagnosis and treatment are thought to be associated with poorer long-term outcomes. For example, CDC's research has shown that those who have CFS for two years or less were more likely to improve. It's not known if early intervention is responsible for this more favorable outcome; however, the longer a person is ill before diagnosis, the more complicated the course of the illness appears to be.

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