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Why Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome So Difficult To Treat?

Mystery surrounds chronic fatigue syndrome. As a condition, it’s difficult to diagnose and equally as difficult to treat. Learn more here.


Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term illness that can affect anyone, including children, however, it is more common in women and tends to develop between the mid-20s and mid-40s. As a condition, chronic fatigue syndrome is a real conundrum; the reasons as to why and how it affects certain people remains an enigma.

Unfortunately, there is no test to ascertain whether or not a person has chronic fatigue syndrome. Instead, the diagnosis method involves a process of elimination as to what it is not, rather than what it is.

This process includes ruling out:

  • Anaemia (lack of red blood cells)
  • Underactive thyroid gland
  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Mental illness, such as depression or an eating disorder

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say that doctors should consider diagnosing CFS if a patient has extreme tiredness that can’t be explained by other causes and if it:

  • Started recently, has lasted a long time or keeps coming back
  • Results in a person not being able to do things they used to
  • Gets worse after activity or gentle exercise, such as a short walk

Some of the following symptoms must also be present:

  • Problems sleeping, such as insomnia
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headaches, a sore throat or sore glands that are not swollen
  • Problems concentrating or remembering things
  • Flu-like symptoms or feeling dizzy or sick
  • Heart palpitations

The severity of symptoms can vary from day to day, or even within a day.

Once diagnosed, there is no single way of managing chronic fatigue syndrome that works for everyone, and that is why treating it is so challenging.

The most common specialist treatments include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This is usually offered on a one-to-one basis and can help sufferers to feel more in control of symptoms, and gain a better understanding of how behaviour can affect the condition.
  • Graded Exercise Therapy (GET): A personally structured exercise programme aims to gradually increase how long a person can carry out physical activity.
  • Activity management: Individual goals are set for each patient that they find manageable and achievable, with gradually increasing activity levels.
  • Medication: There is no specific medication for treating chronic fatigue syndrome, but certain things will help to relieve some of the symptoms. Over-the-counter painkillers can help with headaches, muscle and joint pain, and stronger pain killers can be prescribed on a short-term basis.

Sufferers may also benefit from making small lifestyle changes, such as introducing a healthier diet and nutritional supplements, as well as trying to get plenty of sleep, rest and relaxation. Most people with CFS get better over time, especially when they adapt to their symptoms and have a strong and understanding support network in place. However, there are people who never make a full recovery.

Living with chronic fatigue syndrome can be difficult. Extreme tiredness, combined with other physical symptoms, can make even the simple of activities a daily battle. It can affect confidence and self-esteem and, for some sufferers, it may be necessary to make some major lifestyle changes, such as giving up work or perhaps moving to a smaller house with less or no stairs.

Here at Brian Barr Solicitors, we provide these articles to help you remain as fully informed as possible, however, as we are not medical experts, we would always advise you to seek professional help from your doctor if you are concerned about any symptoms you may be experiencing. We are, however, specialists in chronic fatigue syndrome compensation claims. If you would like to find out more, call us for free on 0808 123 0003 or fill in our online contact form.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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