How to spot chronic fatigue syndrome

Posted on 24 May 2016

Are you tired… or is it something bigger? If resting doesn’t make you feel any less tired, then you could be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. We asked a Mediclinic doctor to talk us through a diagnosis.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is one of those disorders that describes itself: you’re fatigued, tired, all the time – and while exercising or working makes you even more tired, getting a good night’s rest doesn’t make you feel any better. It’s a complicated disorder, in that it can’t be prevented, it can’t be cured and it can be very difficult to diagnose. The causes are still unknown and many experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome may be triggered by a combination of factors.

So how does a doctor test for it? ‘We’d do a full medical examination,’ says Dr Rolf Verster, a general practitioner (GP) at Mediclinic Sandton. ‘You need to be checked out from top to bottom.’ There’s no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, so you may need a range of medical tests to rule out other health problems with similar symptoms.

‘We’d look at a psychosocial assessment, to see what sorts of stressors the patient has, and what possible psychological problems exist,’ Dr Verster says. ‘Then we normally recommend a panel of blood tests to be done to exclude inflammatory conditions and infective conditions, for example. Other things like hypertension or sugar diabetes also need to be excluded. And then, only once we’ve done all of that and we can’t find anything, then by exclusion I would look at giving a possible diagnosis of chronic fatigue.’

Various viruses and infections are believed to be behind CFS. Dr Verster explains: ‘Usually it’s accompanied by some evidence of certain virus markers which have been indicated with chronic fatigue syndrome, like Coxiella or the Epstein-Barr virus, for example.’

Depression is another one of the possible causes or triggers of CFS, and Dr Verster says that that’s something your doctor would normally check for during the tests. ‘It would fall under the psychosocial screening,’ he says.

If you don’t have CFS, then it’s possible that you really just need a rest, a stress-free holiday or an exercise programme that’ll boost your energy levels. Either way, if you’re constantly feeling exhausted, you should speak to your GP about it.

Published in Healthy Life

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