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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

A condition that lasts for more than 6 months in which a person feels tired most of the time. They may also have trouble concentrating and carrying out daily activities. Other symptoms include sore throat, fever, muscle weakness, headache, and joint pain. Also called CFS.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About CFS

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a devastating and complex disorder. People with CFS have overwhelming fatigue and a host of other symptoms that are not improved by bed rest and that can get worse after physical activity or mental exertion. They often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before they became ill.

Besides severe fatigue, other symptoms include muscle pain, impaired memory or mental concentration, insomnia, and post-exertion malaise lasting more than 24 hours. In some cases, CFS can persist for years.

Researchers have not yet identified what causes CFS, and there are no tests to diagnose CFS. Moreover, because many illnesses have fatigue as a symptom, doctors need to take care to rule out other conditions, which may be treatable...Read more about CFS CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a very common and disabling condition, in which people suffer from persistent symptoms of fatigue that are unexplained. Cognitive behaviour therapy is a psychological therapy model that is commonly used to treat a range of psychological and chronic pain conditions. This review aimed to find out whether CBT is effective for CBT, both as a standalone treatment and in combination with other treatments, and whether it is more effective than other treatments used for CFS. The review included 15 studies, with a total of 1043 CFS participants. The review showed that people attending for CBT were more likely to have reduced fatigue symptoms at the end of treatment than people who received usual care or were on a waiting list for therapy, with 40% of people in the CBT group showing clinical improvement, in contrast with 26% in usual care. At follow‐up, 1‐7 months after treatment ended, people who had completed their course of CBT continued to have lower fatigue levels, but when including people who had dropped out of treatment, there was no difference between CBT and usual care. The review also compared CBT against other types of psychological therapy, including relaxation techniques, counselling and support/education, and found that people attending for CBT was more likely to have reduced fatigue symptoms at the end of treatment than those attending for other psychological therapies. Physical functioning, depression, anxiety and psychological distress symptoms were also more reduced when compared with other psychological therapies. However at follow‐up, the results were inconsistent and the studies did not fit well together, making it difficult to draw any conclusions. Very few studies reported on the acceptability of CBT and no studies examined side effects. Only two studies compared the effectiveness of CBT against other treatments, both exercise therapy, and just one study compared a combination of CBT and other treatments with usual care. More studies should be carried out to establish whether CBT is more helpful than other treatments for CFS, and whether CBT in combination with other treatments is more helpful than single treatment approaches.

Exercise as treatment for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

• People with chronic fatigue syndrome and their family and friends.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (or Encephalopathy): Diagnosis and Management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (or Encephalopathy) in Adults and Children [Internet]

The guideline covers care provided by healthcare professionals who have direct contact with and make decisions about the care of people with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy) (CFS/ME). It covers care provided in primary and secondary care, and in specialist centres/teams.

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Summaries for consumers

Cognitive behaviour therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a very common and disabling condition, in which people suffer from persistent symptoms of fatigue that are unexplained. Cognitive behaviour therapy is a psychological therapy model that is commonly used to treat a range of psychological and chronic pain conditions. This review aimed to find out whether CBT is effective for CBT, both as a standalone treatment and in combination with other treatments, and whether it is more effective than other treatments used for CFS. The review included 15 studies, with a total of 1043 CFS participants. The review showed that people attending for CBT were more likely to have reduced fatigue symptoms at the end of treatment than people who received usual care or were on a waiting list for therapy, with 40% of people in the CBT group showing clinical improvement, in contrast with 26% in usual care. At follow‐up, 1‐7 months after treatment ended, people who had completed their course of CBT continued to have lower fatigue levels, but when including people who had dropped out of treatment, there was no difference between CBT and usual care. The review also compared CBT against other types of psychological therapy, including relaxation techniques, counselling and support/education, and found that people attending for CBT was more likely to have reduced fatigue symptoms at the end of treatment than those attending for other psychological therapies. Physical functioning, depression, anxiety and psychological distress symptoms were also more reduced when compared with other psychological therapies. However at follow‐up, the results were inconsistent and the studies did not fit well together, making it difficult to draw any conclusions. Very few studies reported on the acceptability of CBT and no studies examined side effects. Only two studies compared the effectiveness of CBT against other treatments, both exercise therapy, and just one study compared a combination of CBT and other treatments with usual care. More studies should be carried out to establish whether CBT is more helpful than other treatments for CFS, and whether CBT in combination with other treatments is more helpful than single treatment approaches.

Exercise as treatment for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

• People with chronic fatigue syndrome and their family and friends.

Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs for chronic fatigue

Treatment options for idiopathic chronic fatigue are limited. This review attempted to examine the use of traditional Chinese herbal remedies for this condition. Although some studies investigating traditional Chinese herbs for were found for chronic fatigue syndrome, no studies met the inclusion criteria. Choice of inclusion criteria was intended to narrow inclusion to methodologically rigourous and meaningful studies. Methodological limitations in the studies identified, such as type of control used and study design, limited the usefulness of the data

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More about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Also called: Systemic exertion intolerance disease, Myalgic encephalomyelitis, Post-viral fatigue syndrome, Post-infectious fatigue syndrome, CFS/ME, Me, SEID

Other terms to know:
Fibromyalgia, Muscle Ache (Myalgia)

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