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What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disease characterised by incapacitating fatigue. CFS is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), Tapanui Flu, or Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).

What are the main symptoms of CFS?
The disorder is characterised by the onset of fatigue that significantly reduces daily activity in a previously healthy person. Symptoms often appear to be flu like.

Other symptoms include: - impaired memory or concentration; a sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, multi joint pain without joint swelling or redness; headaches of a new type, pattern or severity; unrefreshing sleep and extended period of tiredness lasting more than 24 hours after a period of physical activity.

CFS symptoms vary, some suffers find that they are always present but vary in intensity. Others alternate between episodes of illness and wellbeing, and recurrences may either be random or in cycles. Symptoms can worsen with mental or physical exertion. The degree to which patients are disabled also varies widely. Some patients continue to function at home and at work, although at a reduced level of activity, while others are severely disabled and can not perform the activities of daily life.

How Does CFS Begin?
For many people, CFS begins after an acute infection such as flu, bronchitis, hepatitis or an intestinal bug. For some it may follow a bout of glandular fever. In others it appears to develop gradually with no clear precipitating event.

How Many people have CFS?
In New Zealand there is an estimated 10,000 sufferers. CFS occurs in New Zealand more than MS and Breast Cancer.

Who Gets CFS?
CFS does not discriminate between ethnic, age or socioeconomic groups.

Is there a diagnostic test in New Zealand available to my doctor?
There is no specific test used to diagnose CFS. Diagnosis is made by clinical presentation and by ruling out all other possible causes of fatigue.  Routine blood tests often return "normal" results.

Diagnosis of CFS is usually based on 4 or more symptoms being present.
Unusual fatigue after exertion lasting 24 hours
Impaired memory or concentration
Unrefreshing sleep
Sore throat
Tender Lymph nodes
Muscle pain
Joint pain

How is CFS treated?
Currently there is no specific treatment that cures the underlying immune system dysfunction which appears to be at the heart of the condition. 

Treatment for CFS is therefore restricted to the relieve of specific symptoms. Sleep disorders, pain, gastrointestinal difficulties, allergies and depression are symptoms which can be treated using prescription and/or over the counter medications.

Medications should only be used in consultation with a doctor.

Do people with CFS Recover?
Some people recover from CFS, some suffer cycles of relatively good health and illness and a minority gradually worsen over time; while others neither worsen or improve, while some improve gradually but never fully recover.

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