Are you suffering from chronic fatigue?
Posted Thursday, June 14 2012 at 17:23
Do you know that fatigue can actually make you sick? Throughout our lives, we have been told that germs and poor lifestyles are the main causes of disease.
This is true, but over the past few years, scientists have discovered a lesser known evil that is affecting millions of people worldwide – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
In Kenya, there is still very little information out there about CFS both among health professionals and the general public. As doctors, most of us are very evidence-based and believe that if there is something wrong with a patient, the lab tests and scans will reveal it.
It is due to this attitude that some clinicians still view patients with CFS as healthy people who are just seeking attention. Most work places label people with CFS as irredeemable under-performers and many have lost their jobs or gotten demoted as a result.
In the home environment, CFS leads to a lot of family conflict as the once vibrant spouse or parent is unable to provide as he/she used to.
What are the symptoms of CFS?
Fatigue: This is a constant sense of overwhelming tiredness that does not resolve even with bed rest. It is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It is often worsened by physical or mental exertion (regardless of how minor). It tends to affect work performance drastically and relationships (both professional and personal) also suffer since you are unable to handle activities that were once normal for you.
Loss of memory or concentration: Most people will notice a deterioration in short-term but not long-term memory. For example, you may find that you increasingly cannot remember what you entered a room to do but can comfortably remember details about activities that took place 10 years ago. You may also find yourself having poor concentration – some people describe it as finding their thoughts being hazy as though they are having a ‘fog in their brains’. You may find yourself having difficulty organising your thoughts and finding the right words to express yourself.
Poor sleep patterns: Unrefreshing sleep is the most common problem of chronic fatigue syndrome. You could get up to eight hours of sleep but wake up still feeling tired. Other common sleep complaints include insomnia (lack of sleep), waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night or sometimes oversleeping in the morning.
Joint and muscle pain: This is pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness. There are also unexplained muscle aches. Usually most tests and radiological scans will not reveal a cause. In Kenya, doctors call this the ‘Hapa na Hapa Syndrome’.
Headaches: Most patients develop a new type of headache with a specific pattern or severity. For example, you may develop a constant dull pain on the right side of your head. This will repeatedly come and go over several months. Some tend not to respond to conventional painkillers while others do not even need use of painkillers to be relieved.
Sore throat: Some people develop recurrent sore throats. This may have associated enlarged painful nodes (swellings) in the neck or armpits.
Psychological issues: With time, some people develop irritability, mood swings, depression and anxiety.
Other issues include: Digestive problems, food intolerance, dizzy spells and visual disturbances.
In extreme cases, people are even unable to move about without the aid of a wheelchair. Some even become bed-ridden.