17 Jul 2017 Tired ALL The Time – Am I Okay?
Living in this modern world where life is comparable to a roller coaster ride, most people would experience tiredness or fatigue. For some of us, all we need is sufficient rest and live a well-balanced life to overcome the struggle. However, for others, despite resting, they still suffer from severe tiredness for long periods of time for no apparent reason.
If you or someone you know experiences fatigue or severe tiredness for long periods of time, but neither rest, sleep nor exercise can seem to alleviate the problem that is a huge red flag to be taken seriously.
You could be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) according to Dr Verna Lee Kar Mun, Head of IMU Healthcare Medical Clinic and Family Medicine Specialist.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complicated condition where extreme fatigue cannot be explained by any particular medical condition. Even with sufficient rest, the fatigue does not go away and may worsen due to physical or mental activity disrupting daily life.
As many as 17 million people worldwide are affected. Anyone can succumb to the condition, however, it is more common in women than men. It usually occurs amongst adults within their early 20s to mid-40s and children between the ages of 13 and 15.
What are the symptoms?
Exhaustion, be it physical or mental, is the main symptom of CFS says Dr Verna. “This may even affect your daily activities. For many people with CFS, the fatigue that is experienced is overwhelming and different from normal tiredness”. In fact, engaging in physical activities can cause the fatigue to intensify (post-exertional malaise, or “payback”).
Besides fatigue, there are other common symptoms as well:
- Muscular pain, joint pain and severe headaches.
- Poor short-term memory and concentration, and difficulty organising thoughts and finding the right words (“brain fog”).
- Painful lymph nodes (small glands of the immune system).
- Stomach pain and other problems similar to irritable bowel syndrome, such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea.
- Sore and inflamed throat.
- Sleeping problems, such as insomnia or trouble getting into deep sleep (non-REM sleep).
- Sensitivity or intolerance to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods.
- Psychological difficulties, such as depression, irritability and panic attacks.
The less common symptoms are such as dizziness, excess sweating, balancing problems and difficulty controlling body temperature.
How it affects your life?
Mild or moderate CFS are more common however, some individuals may experience severe symptoms. Definition of the categories are as below:
- Mild – You are able to care for yourself, but may need time off work to rest and recuperate.
- Moderate – You may have reduced mobility, and your symptoms can vary; you may also have disturbed sleeping patterns and require sleeping in the afternoon.
- Severe – You are able to carry out minimal daily tasks, such as brushing your teeth, but have significantly reduced mobility, and may also have difficulty concentrating.
What are the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Sadly, according to Dr Verna, there is still no proven cause for CFS and it may develop due to a combination of factors. Some of these factors have been studied as the cause:
- Viral infections – Some individuals develop chronic fatigue syndrome after having a viral infection, therefore, researchers question whether certain viruses may trigger the disorder.
- Immune system problems – Some individuals who have chronic fatigue syndrome appear to have slightly impaired immune system.
- Hormonal imbalances – Some individuals who have chronic fatigue syndrome also experience abnormal blood levels of hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands. However, the significance of these abnormalities is still unknown and the research currently isn’t conclusive. More research is still needed.
What should I do if I think I have chronic fatigue syndrome?
Conventionally, if you have persistent or excessive fatigue, it is highly recommended that you see your doctor and explain your situation in detail including your medical history. Fatigue can be a symptom of many illnesses such as an infection or psychological disorders.
“Before your doctor’s appointment, it is important that you write down a list of your signs and symptoms, key personal information (recent changes or major stressors in your life), health information, and questions you have. Be specific with the information you provide as often times, CFS may be passed off as something “in the mind”.
“Providing crucial information will help your doctor give you the right recommendations and treatment”, advised Dr Verna.
Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
If your doctor has diagnosed you with CFS, it is crucial to learn to manage your activity levels. Avoid extreme activities and break down chores and responsibilities into smaller tasks. Physical or mental exertion may cause the symptoms to worsen, however, it is also vital not to avoid activity and exercises entirely. Instead, work with your doctor to create a personalised programme to achieve a balance in rest and activity.
When you are able to effectively manage your activities, you may see your mood, sleeping pattern, pain and other symptoms improve.
Dr Verna recommends that patients, “start with slow, light-impact activities before moving to higher strength and conditioning exercises. More importantly, keep a positive mind and attitude. Having your family and friends as your support group can encourage you through faster recovery”.
This article is brought to you by IMU Healthcare.