Last century, epi-

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					                                 Chronic fatigue syndrome
L    ast century, epi-
     demics of an uniden-
     tified illness swept
through institutions like
schools and hospitals.
                               viously well tolerated.
                               For example, patients
                               may be confined to bed
                               with exhaustion for days
                               after mowing the lawn.
                                                              What causes CFS?
                                                              Despite much research
                                                              into the area, no single
                                                              infectious agent has
                                                                                            depression, can also help.
                                                                                            This does not imply that
                                                                                            the disease is ‘all in the
                                                                                            mind’, but reflects the
                                                                                            fact that the mind and
                                                              proven to be the sole
The symptoms included                                         cause. Recent research        the body are closely
fatigue, lethargy and          Lethargy                       suggests there are sever-     interrelated. Even people
weakness, and victims          Tiredness and a feeling        al subsets of patients        suffering from illnesses
usually recovered within       of laziness and apathy.        with CFS and it is possi-     such as cancer have a
two years. Today, we           This happens all the           ble these groups may          better outcome if they
know these mysterious          time, not only after exer-     have different causes for     undergo supportive coun-
epidemics were epidemic        cise.                          their illnesses. This         selling and relaxation
forms of chronic fatigue           Although many peo-         research suggests the         therapy.
syndrome.                      ple feel chronically           possibility that in future,       CFS patients have
                               lethargic, to have a diag-     patients with CFS may         found many other com-
What is CFS?                   nosis of CFS, the patient      be treated differently,       plementary therapies
Chronic fatigue syn-           must have had severe,                                        helpful, such as nutri-
                                                              depending on their symp-
drome (CFS) can also be        debilitating fatigue for at                                  tional approaches and
called ME (myalgic             least six months. The                                        naturopathic treatment.
encephalomyelitis) and         doctor will need to rule       Investigations                However, you are advised
affects up to 1% of the        out other physical or psy-                                   to avoid confusing your-
                                                              Your doctor may order
population. We do not          chiatric diseases that                                       self by trying many dif-
                                                              tests to exclude other dis-
know what causes it. It        may mimic the symp-                                          ferent approaches at the
                                                              eases, however, there is
affects women more than        toms. Also, the patient                                      same time.
                                                              no specific test to prove a
men, and commonly              should have four of the        person suffers from CFS.
strikes in the mid twen-       following symptoms for a                                     Prognosis
ties to mid forties.           positive diagnosis.            Treatment                     Half of all CFS sufferers
Although some people                                                                        must stop work during
                                                              Although several mea-
once called it ‘Yuppie flu’,   1. Impaired memory or                                        their illness. Most recov-
                                                              sures improve symptoms
people from all social            concentration                                             er after a period of two to
                                                              and help the sufferer live
classes can get CFS.           2. Recurrent sore throats                                    five years. Some have the
                                                              with the illness, no single
    It can be a frustrating    3. Tender lymph glands                                       disease for longer peri-
                                                              treatment will shorten
illness for the sufferer,      4. Muscle pain                                               ods, or recover to a level
                                                              the course of the illness.
who, despite prolonged         5. Multi-joint pain                                          that allows them to lead
                                                              Some simple measures
and disabling symptoms,        6. A new type, pattern or                                    a nearly normal life, with
                                                              can help reduce the
may often be told ‘you            severity of headaches                                     some adjustments. If you
                                                              severity of symptoms:
are looking well’. Many        7. Unrefreshing sleep                                        suspect you have this ill-
                                                              • Get enough rest and
patients have suffered         8. Post-exertion malaise                                     ness, consult your family
the double indignity of                                                                     doctor for an accurate
                                                              • Eat a balanced diet
being told their illness       If the patient does not                                      assessment and appropri-
                                                              • Avoid excessive physi-
was ‘all in the mind’.         fulfil these criteria, their                                 ate treatment.
                                                                cal exertion
This is because of the         problem is not CFS.            • Avoid mental stress
vague nature of the                                                                         You may also wish to
symptoms and the               Other features that may                                      contact one of the two
                                                              Low dose antidepressant
absence of a test to diag-     be present are:                                              local CFS support
                                                              medication, which can
nose the illness. Some         • Alcohol intolerance                                        groups: Merle Fullerton
                                                              improve sleep and ener-
people were not properly       • Depression and anxiety                                     on (02) 6621 5047 or
                                                              gy, has some benefits,
diagnosed for years.           • Dizziness                                                  John Norman on (02)
                                                              including pain relief.
                               • Abnormalities of bowel       Likewise, a graded exer-      6687 8103.
Some terms used in the           function
diagnosis of CFS                                              cise program can
                               • Light and noise sensi-       improve symptoms.
Fatigue                          tivity                          Cognitive behavioural
Tiredness and exhaus-          • Sensitivities to medica-     therapy, which helps the
tion after a level of physi-     tions, food and chemi-       sufferer think positively
cal exertion that was pre-       cals                         and treats any coexisting

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