Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a serious long term illness that may affect many systems of the body. It can also be referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). CFS can affect anyone, but it’s most common in women aged 40-60 years old.
CFS is a difficult condition to diagnose (like many other invisible disabilities), and many people suffering from CFS are often denied long term disability (LTD) benefits while they are searching for a diagnosis. Patients often have to be their own advocates when dealing with medical professionals in order to get the treatment they need.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms
Part of the difficulty with diagnosing CFS is that symptoms may vary between individuals, and can be mistaken for other conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. The one distinctive symptom is fatigue which lasts for more than six months and is not curable with bed rest. Other symptoms include:
• Loss of Memory or Concentration
• Feeling Unrefreshed After a Night’s Sleep
• Chronic Insomnia
• Muscle Pain
• Frequent Headaches
• Multi-joint Pain Without Redness or Swelling
• Frequent Sore Throat
• Tender and Swollen Lymph Nodes the Neck and Armpits
Complications From CFS
Because of the litany of symptoms that can arise from CFS, there are very real and often debilitating complications which lead many to rely on LTD benefits, including:
• Social Isolation
• Lifestyle Restrictions (i.e. being unable to keep up with chores)
• Increased work absences
What Causes CFS?
Scientists and doctors are still not sure what the exact causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are making it hard to identify when the illness began.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have suggested Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be the result or end stages of various conditions, rather than a unique condition in and of itself. Various infections or viruses have been linked to CFS including:
• Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
• Human Herpesvirus 6
• Ross River Virus (RRV)
• Bacterial infections caused by Coxiella Burnetii and Mycoplasma Pneumoniae
People with CFS are also prone to:
• Immune System Problems. Those with CFS often appear to have a slightly impaired immune system, which makes them susceptible to viral infections and other health issues
• Hormonal Imbalances. Sometimes those with CFS can present with abnormal blood levels of hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands.
Suffering from CFS can have very real and often serious effects on a person’s ability to work and oftentimes the feeling of being “tired” is dismissed by physicians and insurance companies. Keeping records of your symptoms is a great way to be able to show evidence of your illness and inability to work - and although it may be a challenge to fight for the benefits you need, it’s essential you take care of your health first.
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