Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disease marked by extreme tiredness that limits participation in normal daily activities. Roughly one million Americans are currently diagnosed with CFS, and it affects at least twice as many women as men. Although many suspect a virus or immune system reaction, there is no known cause of the disease, and there are no lab tests to confirm diagnosis. Consequently, medical professionals have struggled with ways to treat the disease. Fortunately, a recent study shows that a few different treatments can provide long-term results for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Signs and symptoms of CFS can come and go, lasting anywhere from one month to many years. Unfortunately, additional rest doesn't help reduce fatigue and other symptoms, which can include:
- Achy muscles and joints with an absence of swelling
- Changes in mood
- Foggy thinking
- Low-grade fever
- Impaired memory
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck or armpits
Examining participants of the PACE trial – a study published in 2011 – the new study follows up on results. In the original study, 641 patients with CFS were randomly assigned to one of four treatments:
- Specialist Medical Care (SMC), which provides medication and ways to manage the disease.
- SMC combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to help patients understand how thinking affects disease progression.
- SMC plus graded exercise therapy (GET), an exercise program tailored to a patient's fitness level and specific symptoms.
- SMC in combination with adaptive pacing therapy (APT), a treatment that helps patients better adapt to the limitations that come with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The original research found that outcomes for people treated with SMC plus CBT or SMC and GET were better than those for people treated with SMC alone or SMC plus ABT. Further, improvements continued to last one year out.
In the latest study, the research team found that improvements still continued after 2.5 years. It was also noted that patients in the SMC plus CBT or GET groups sought less follow-up treatment than patients in the other two groups after the original study ended.
People who suspect they may have chronic fatigue syndrome should consult with a health care professional for proper diagnosis. In addition to the treatments mentioned above, people can try a few lifestyle changes to improve symptoms. Stop smoking, limit alcohol use, avoid napping during the day, adopt a regular night-time sleep routine, eat a nutritious diet, and try stress relieving activities like yoga, meditation, or tai chi.