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Does it seem like chronic fatigue follows you around like a sick puppy? It’s not your imagination. You could have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or one of several other maladies whose symptoms include constant tiredness, brain drain, and general achiness.
What is chronic fatigue?
Try this: find a stairwell, run up and down twenty times without breaking for a breather, and now stop.
Feel tired, wiped out, and lightheaded? Good! That means you’re healthy. It’s natural to feel fatigued after a strenuous workout.
People with chronic fatigue always feel exhausted, from morning to nightfall. Forget running up the stairs- just running an errand to the supermarket can leave you out for the count before noon.
Only a doctor can diagnose your health problems; here are some conditions to look out for that cause fatigue.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
More than just tiredness, chronic fatigue syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes debilitating physical pain and cognitive disorders. Fatigue is constant, regardless of having slept well the night before or not overexerting oneself in physical activities.
Many people diagnosed with CFS also suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, fibromyalgia, or celiac disease.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is an often-overlooked cause of fatigue for many people. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t screen routinely for low vitamin B12 levels, so remember to ask for a blood test, specifically for vitamin B12 deficiency.
Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause severe, irreversible neurological damage, dementia, and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
If you think B12 deficiency is not common, then you’re mistaken. It’s one of the leading nutritional deficiencies in the US. There are several reasons for this:
There has been a recent spike in gastric bypass surgeries, as they become more affordable and socially acceptable. Any type of surgery that invades your digestive system ultimately leads to poor vitamin B12 absorption, but most surgeons fail to warn patients beforehand. By interfering with your ability to produce intrinsic factor, an enzyme crucial for digesting vitamin B12 from food, a large number of gastric bypass surgeries result in severe depletion of vitamin B12 levels in the blood.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal-based foods like beef, poultry, fish, and eggs. With the increasing popularity of vegan dieting, we have also seen a rise in vitamin B12 deficiencies.
Certain drugs inhibit your ability to digest vitamin B12; these include the diabetes medication metformin and GERD treatments, protein pump inhibitors (PPIs), which prevent stomach acid production.
In the movie WALL-E, Disney animators envisioned an armchair society for our future, in which all daytime activities- work, play, even dressing- could be controlled with the touch of a button, eliminating the need to leave your house…or your seat.
In fact, idleness is a major source of chronic illness for an increasing number of people. Avoidance of exercise is more likely to cause fatigue than the actual exercise itself. The deciding factor is how much you exercise, and which activities you choose, not whether you do it at all.
Fess up- when was the last time you slept eight hours in a row? The fact is- most of us don’t get the bare minimum of quality nighttime sleep that we need to prevent fatigue, stress, and chronic illness.
Current research points to electronic overstimulation as a possible reason for fatigue and insomnia. We’re always “on.” Handheld devices, cell phones, Bluetooth technology, iPod music players, e-books, laptops, tablets, and a never-ending drone of cable televised media keep us on edge, engaged, from morning ‘til night.
To fall asleep quicker and get the most rest, follow these tips:
Avoid afternoon naps, even short ones.
Cut down on caffeinated beverages.
Take vitamin B12 for more daytime energy
Exercise every day
Put a curfew on all electronic devices, including your television.
Clinical depression is a possible source of fatigue, as well. If sadness and a sense of hopelessness accompany constant fatigue, then see a doctor immediately. Many antidepressants are available that are safe and produce no side effects.
Also, ask for vitamin B12 deficiency screening, as depression and anxiety are common symptoms of low vitamin B12 levels.
Please tell us…
Do you experience overwhelming fatigue every day, despite sleeping well?
Does you fatigue occur after exercising, or does it happen all the time, even when you don’t do physical activities?
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please leave your comments below.
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Chronic fatigue syndrome is not yuppie flu, nor is it an imaginary disease- chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an autoimmune disorder that causes debilitating chronic pain, perpetual exhaustion, dizziness, and low immunity for no apparent reason. Some chronic fatigue sufferers, such as author Laura Hillenbrand, were first diagnosed with CFS at a young age, and continue to use vitamin B12, acupuncture, and massage in an effort to minimize pain triggers.
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms
It’s not just tiredness; CFS feels like your whole body is falling apart. Comorbid with fibromyalgia, many scientists are toying with the idea of combining both chronic pain disorders into one disease- fibromyalgia-chronic fatigue syndrome.
Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:
Intense muscular pain
Severe exhaustion, despite getting enough sleep and not overexerting oneself
Please note: Vita Sciences has no affiliation with any of the celebrities mentioned.
1) Laura Hillenbrand- author of Seabiscuit, which was made into an Oscar-nominated motion picture, Laura Hillenbrand was first diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at the age of 19. A former jock, she was struck with a sudden fever while traveling back to college after spring break.
Pain symptoms escalated; she started suffering swollen glands, stomach cramps, and extreme vertigo. Once the picture of youth, she was suddenly unable to walk around her college campus.
Laura visited many doctors who were unable to diagnose her phantom pain symptoms, and she was told multiple times that it was all in her head, that the only thing wrong with her was her “attitude problem.”
As she told Elle magazine, “Well-meaning people would say, ‘You need psychiatric care.’ ” Eventually, she lost her circle of friends, and even her family failed to understand her crisis.
Laura’s chronic pain management includes getting vitamin B12 shots, herbal supplements, restrictive dieting, steroid hormones, and acupuncture.
2) Suzanne Shaw-Dancing on Ice champ was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome after complaining to her doctor about swollen limbs, joint stiffness, night sweats, and severe tiredness.
3) Cher-In 1992,singer-actress Cher had to take a few years off from her hectic schedule to recuperate from sudden CFS.
4) Stevie Nicks- In 1987, chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms drove legendary pop singer Stevie Nicks into pain pill addiction.
5) Flea- Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 1993.
6) Michelle Akers- Former Olympic soccer player Michelle Akers documented her struggle with CFS in one of her biographies.
7) Blake Edwards- Film producer-director-screenwriter Blake Edwards is noted for his work in the Pink Panther movie series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Days of Wine and Roses. In his bio Remember Me, he mentioned his battle with chronic fatigue syndrome.
8) Michael Crawford- Best known for his Broadway performance in The Phantom of the Opera, singer Michael Crawford is currently recuperating from severe chronic fatigue syndrome.
9) Keith Jarrett- Celebrated jazz pianist Keith Jarrett had to take a break from his music career in 1995 to recover from CFS.
10) David Puttnam- The British film producer of Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields also suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), another term for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Please tell us…
Can you name any other famous people with chronic fatigue syndrome? What about celebrities who raise CFS awareness? We welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions!
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Chronic fatigue syndrome is more than just simple exhaustion- it makes you feel sluggish, cranky, and confused, even if you’ve had plenty of sleep and have no reason to feel so tired. Chronic fatigue occurs with illnesses like vitamin B12 deficiency, fibromyalgia, and celiac disease. So, is chronic fatigue syndrome just a symptom telling you that something’s not right, or is it a separate disease of its own?
What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
To quote the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic fatigue syndrome (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.”
People with CFS wake up feeling tired, wiped out, as if they have just finished running in a marathon, even though they have not even gotten up from bed. Because CFS sometimes includes pain symptoms, people think it is similar to fibromyalgia. It’s not- Almost all people with fibromyalgia suffer from fatigue, but not all CFS sufferers experience chronic pain. (Read more about fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia- Is there a Difference?)
How is chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosed?
Determining CFS can be complicated, as there are currently no diagnostic tests available. Before a doctor can diagnose CFS, he has to use the process of elimination to exclude all other possible illnesses.
The patient must have been suffering from chronic fatigue for longer than six months, despite having normal sleeping habits.
The patient must not be suffering with any mental illness that has fatigue as a main symptom.
The patient must have at least four of the qualifying symptoms for chronic fatigue syndrome.
What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?
People with chronic fatigue syndrome suffer from mental and physical pain that interfere with daily life. For some, CFS means losing the ability to care for oneself or dependents, not having the energy to do simple tasks, and facing skepticism from friends, family, and other acquaintances who think it’s all “in your head.”
The following symptoms enable a physician to give a proper diagnosis of CFS:
Short-term memory loss
Frequent sore throat
Sore lymph nodes
Joint pain where no inflammation is evident
Fatigue that is not relieved by sleep
Severe exhaustion following even minimal physical activity, requiring a full day’s recuperation
Severe mental exhaustion following exams, or other mental exercises
Other symptoms that may occur with CFS but do not influence diagnoses include:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Brain fog (confusion)
Depression and anxiety
Hypersensitivity to foods, scents, sounds, or light
Difficulty maintaining balance
What causes chronic fatigue syndrome?
The exact cause of CFS is unknown, but scientists theorize the following possibilities:
Vitamin deficiency (such as vitamin B12 deficiency)
Hypotension (low blood pressure)
What are the best treatments for chronic fatigue?
The primary goal in treating patients with CFS is to provide relief from the debilitating symptoms, since there is no cure for the actual disease itself. Unfortunately, finding the right treatment is just as complicated as diagnosing it- it’s a long process that requires time, patience, and a willingness to try new strategies.
Here are some popular options for managing chronic fatigue syndrome:
What’s the difference between fibromyalgia (FM) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)? Health experts often differ in diagnosing fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue symptoms, as they tend to overlap. Judge for yourself- here are some facts on symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that causes pain, tiredness, and stomach upset in its sufferers. FM is somewhat of a medical phenomenon, as scientists are still unsure exactly what causes fibromyalgia. Theories abound, and researchers continue to conduct studies on possible causes of fibromyalgia.
The most prevalent symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain: About 70% – 80% of fibromyalgia patients suffer severe muscular soreness. Pain occurs mostly along the spine, the shoulders, hips, and neck, but can also happen in other parts of the body. FM sufferers may also experience joint stiffness similar to arthritis pain.
Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia are gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea), severe fatigue, sleep difficulties, and “brain fog” (concentration problems).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention, approximately five million US citizens suffer from fibromyalgia.
In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, a doctor must confirm eleven out of eighteen fibromyalgia “tender points” in his patient.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) goes by a few other names: immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). CFS is another “invisible disease” that affects the body and the mind. Like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome is also an illness for which scientists are still attempting to determine the cause. The leading theory is that CFS is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system.
What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?
While fibromyalgia symptoms center on pain, CFS symptoms are primarily related to extreme unending tiredness. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:
being tired all the time, despite getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and generally taking good care of yourself,
complete exhaustion after low-impact exercise, examinations, or long periods requiring mental focus, followed by a recuperation period,
poor short-term memory,
waking up fatigued, and never feeling fully rested,
flu-like aches and pain,
poor reading comprehension,
difficulty grasping appropriate words while communicating,
What’s the difference between CFS and FM?
The fact that symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia so often overlap makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose, and confusing for patients to understand. Here are some basic similarities and distinguishing facts of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome:
Not all people who have chronic fatigue syndrome also suffer from chronic pain symptoms such as those with fibromyalgia. However, most fibromyalgia patients live with extreme, persistent fatigue every day- approximately 50% – 70%, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
About one million people have chronic fatigue syndrome, compared with five million fibromyalgia sufferers.
While some physicians believe that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are two separate conditions that often overlap in one patient, others believe that chronic fatigue is one of many symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome, and not a disorder in its own right.
Stress and physical exertion are both common triggers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
Other illnesses share similar symptoms with FM and CFS, causing yet more confusion in diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, other conditions like pernicious anemia may occur at the same time as CFS, and may go undetected as a result.
A high correlation exists between vitamin B12 deficiency and fibromyalgia. Any condition that causes gastrointestinal problems will likely also result in poor digestion of vitamin B12. Untreated, B12 deficiency can escalate into severe nerve damage.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency may include nerve pain (tingling, pins and needles) in the hands and feet, numbness in the hands and feet, decreased energy, loss of mental focus, fatigue, depression, anxiety, sore tongue, altered sense of taste, short-term memory loss, clumsiness, and difficulty walking, running or jumping without stumbling.
Other disorders and illnesses linked with vitamin B12 deficiency are inflammatory bowel disease (IBD- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), lupus, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, celiac disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Because vitamin B12 deficiency shares so many symptoms with chronic fatigue syndrome, it might go untreated. For that reason, it is advisable for people suffering from CFS or FM to get their vitamin B12 blood levels checked routinely.
Read more about fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome:
Most people who have fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), as the two conditions share comorbidity with each other. So, how do you to tell if you have fibro fog, chronic fatigue…or both?
About 80 to 90 percent of all chronic fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue sufferers female. Also, fibromyalgia sufferers share many of the same symptoms, such as severe chronic pain and mental exhaustion.
If that’s the case, then how does one tell the two conditions apart?
So we know what features CFS and FMS have in common, but what criteria do physicians use to tell them apart?
The basic difference is that fibromyalgia is that fibromyalgia involves specific pain points, while chronic fatigue has no rhyme or reason.
However, that’s only a rough description.
Factors that differentiate fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome, compared with 1 million who suffer from chronic fatigue. If you suspect you have one or the other, seek a fibromyalgia diagnosis first.
A rheumatologist often determines fibromyalgia, while an infectious disease specialist is more likely to diagnose CFS.
2) The substance P factor
Fibromyalgia patients have 300% more substance P, a chemical that your brain uses to spread pain signals throughout your body. The more substance P your body emits following an injury, the stronger your body’s reaction to pain.
If you have fibromyalgia, then you suffer three times the amount of muscular pain or joint aches than people who don’t have chronic illness.
3) It’s in the zone
There are approximately 18 distinct pain points throughout body that signal fibromyalgia syndrome. To receive a diagnosis, fibromyalgia sufferers must exhibit soreness in at least 11 of these specified zones. Conversely, chronic fatigue patients have no connection with the 18 pain points.
Chronic fatigue syndrome patients have higher levels of an antiviral enzyme, RNase L, leading experts to believe that CFS is the result of an autoimmune disorder following exposure to a virus.
While fibromyalgia often begins following an emotional trauma or physical injury, CFS generally appears because of a viral infection, like mono or the flu. Chronic fatigue sufferers often complain of residual flu-like symptoms and sore throat, in addition to exhaustion following physical exercise. CFS patients feel tired all day, even after sleeping a full eight hours.