Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities. (Source: CDC)

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a complex illness characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. People with CFS often function at a much lower level of activity than they did before onset of the illness. CFS can also affect memory, cause weakness and muscle pain, and insomnia.

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What causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The cause or causes of CFS have not been identified. Many different infectious agents, physiologic and psychological causes have been considered. Research centers on the roles the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems may play and how these factors interact. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in developing or prolonging the illness.

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Who is at risk?

CFS affects men and women of all ages and races. It occurs in women at two to four times the rate as in men. CFS is most common in people in their 40s and 50s, but children can develop the illness, especially during the teen years.

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How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosed?

There are no specific diagnostic tests for CFS. Your health care provider will need to rule out other known and often treatable conditions before a diagnosis of CFS is made.

In order to receive a diagnosis of CFS, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have severe chronic fatigue of six months or longer duration with other know medical conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis.
  2. Also have four or more of the following symptoms: substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; multi-joint pain without swelling or redness; headaches of anew type, pattern or severity; unrefreshing sleep; and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.

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How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome treated?

Since there is no known cure for CFS, treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and improving daily function. A combination of drug and non-drug therapies is usually recommended. While some patients may see improvement over time, full recovery may be rare. Many patients experience skepticism and disbelief from others about their illness. Treating patients with respect and validating their illness may be the single most important therapy a health care provider can offer.

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Disability and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

When symptoms are severe enough to prevent the patient from working, he or she may be eligible for disability benefits under Social Security.

There are specific medical and disability criteria that must be met to become eligible for these benefits. The analysis of whether the criteria are met is made for Social Security by the Disability Determination System, part of the Department of Children and Families.

For Disability Determination

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Support and Assistance

Vermont Chapter - National Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Organization
1-800-296-1445
Email: admin@vtcfids.org

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Resources for the Public

National Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Organization

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Mayo Clinic

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Resources for Health Care Providers

CFS information for Health Care Professionals
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Provider Education Project
National Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Organization

A Consensus Manual for the Primary Care and Management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
New Jersey Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Association, Inc.

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