Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis can be a debilitating condition that has become widespread and presents with a wide range of symptoms, many of which vary from one person to the next. You may have seen the term ME often being used alongside or interchangeably with the term Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). However, many still debate over whether both terms should be used in tandem or separately.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day falls on May 12th, and on the day of birth of a very pioneering nurse, Florence Nightingale, who was believed to have suffered from CFS/ME herself. It’s a date that has been designated for several Neurological and Chronic Immunological Diseases as far back as 1992. These ailments include, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Fibromyalgia (FM), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Gulf War Syndrome (GWS)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day 2017 is an awareness event that is meant to promote a better understanding of how this ailment can impact the lives of those who suffer with it.
What is CFS?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome refers to a group of medical conditions that are significantly debilitating, with characteristic symptoms of chronic and persistent fatigue, alongside a number of other specific conditions, which can last at least 6 months.
The level of fatigue a person feels is not like feeling tired due to lack of sleep or due to exertion, is not met with any significant relief by resting, and is not the cause of other medical conditions. Some of the symptoms a CFS sufferer are:
- Feelings of malaise after exertion
- Widespread Joint and muscle pain
- Sleep that does not refresh them
- Headaches unlike any they have had previously
- Sore throat
- Cognitive difficulties
- Severe and chronic physical and mental exhaustion.
CFS/ME can affect the daily activities of an individual, and it has been estimated that about 1 million American have the illness, but only 20% of these individuals are properly diagnosed with it. It tends to be more common in women, but both CFS and ME can affect people of all ages, including children, as well as all ethnicities and races. To date, scientists are still unable to determine what the cause is of this illness.
How You Can Participate in Chronic Fatigue Awareness Day
There are several ways you can participate in and support the spread of CFS awareness:
- Wear the colour blue on May 12th
- Look for any local ME/CFS events happening in your community
- Share your personal stories and experiences about CFS
- Spread awareness by telling a friend or neighbour about CFS
- Learn more about how CFS affects others
Public Health Grand Rounds
Back in February of 2016, the CDC held what is known as a Public Health Grand Rounds, which was focused on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, advanced research and clinical education. It brought together an expert panel of epidemiologists, researchers and clinicians for discussions on how to manage and diagnose CFS based on the experiences they have had in their own practices. It was pointed out that over the years the diagnostic criteria used for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome had changes, and how the public health community could continue to raise awareness and bring attention to CFS and those who suffered with it. The Grand Rounds renewed the attention towards CFS/ME and those affected with it.
How Is CFS Diagnosed?
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, it’s important to contact your doctor. While there are no specify blood or lab tests that can help diagnose CFS, a diagnosis can be made based on your illness history and characteristic symptoms. What your doctor will do is:
- Take your detailed medical history
- Conduct a thorough mental and physical health exam
- Order a series of laboratory screening tests that can identify or rule out the possibility of other causes of your symptoms
- Order additional tests that may be needed to follow up on your initial visit
It can be challenging to diagnose and treat CFS, which is why it’s important to work with your doctor, or any other healthcare professionals in order to help cope during what can be a difficult time.
Many people with CFS deal with worries and anxiety over their health, symptoms that change and interfere with day to day life, problems with memory loss and concentration that can have an impact of school or work performances, a loss of their independence, financial security and livelihood, and changes taking place in their relationships with friends and family. It’s a lot to cope with on top of the symptoms being dealt with.
How Is CFS Managed?
Having to cope with CFS symptoms daily and for an extended period can be quite hard and its impact on an individual’s personal life is immense. It can make it impossible to commit to any social engagements because you don’t know how CFS will affect you from one day to the next.
Living with CFS is challenging, but not impossible. It’s not uncommon to struggle with such debilitating symptoms and problems, such as frustration and depression. But support is out there and very important. You are not alone in dealing with your illness. Help and support can come from healthcare professionals, friends and family, counsellors and CFS support groups. This is why it is so important to raise awareness, so please help us do that on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day 2017.