There are plenty of health issues and lifestyle habits that can make you feel rundown. But if you've been experiencing a pervasive exhaustion that doesn't go away, it may be worth looking into the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. This condition can lead to ongoing issues with fatigue, headaches, and body aches that can truly impact your life. And yet, it doesn't get much attention.
One of the reasons why? Doctors can't quite agree on what, exactly, it means to have chronic fatigue. "Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has traditionally been a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that if you are fatigued and there is no specific medical condition that is the culprit, you have chronic fatigue," board-certified rehabilitation specialist Dr. Scott Schreiber tells Bustle.
When met with a patient who is super tired, doctors often look to other conditions as potential causes before diagnosing CFS. "Some common conditions that can cause fatigue include ... hypothyroidism, vitamin D deficiency, excessive stress, adrenal burnout, sleep deprivation, dehydration, imbalance of gut bacteria, and in adequate diet," Schreiber says. A combination of these issues may also be to blame, as some believe they cause the body to "burn out."
It may be difficult to pin down, but that doesn't mean CFS isn't real. If you've been tired for more than six months without any discernible cause, you might have it along with the one million Americans it affects each year. Think that might be the case? Then read on for some of the subtle symptoms of CFS.
1. You Feel Rundown All The Time
While it's normal to feel tired after a long day, CFS causes a profound tiredness that doesn't get better — even after a nap or good night's sleep. "Your body cannot recover from exhaustion, even through bed rest," says Sarah Brown, a wellness expert with Mattress Firm. She tells me this can lead to tiredness (obviously) as well as cold and flu-like symptoms, such as a sore throat or body aches.
2. You Can't Sleep Through The Night
Are you able to sleep through the night? If not, take note. "Besides ... fatigue, the key symptom suggesting that you have CFS and not day-to-day fatigue is the presence of significant insomnia," chronic fatigue expert Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, tells Bustle. "If you can’t sleep well despite being exhausted, you likely also have chronic fatigue syndrome."
3. You Are Mentally Worn Out
With CFS, you won't just feel physically tired but mentally exhausted, too. "The fatigue that people feel when they have CFS is all encompassing to include mental, physical, and stressful tiredness," Brown says. So don't be surprised if you feel a touch of brain fog, too.
4. Your Memory Has Been A Bit Fuzzy
Because of the mental fatigue, Brown tells me it's not uncommon for those with CFS to struggle with memory issues. You might find yourself struggling to focus at work or forgetting where you put your keys, all thanks to that pesky exhaustion.
5. You Feel Awful After Exercising
While light exercise and yoga is recommended as one way to relieve CFS symptoms, exerting yourself too much can make you feel worse. As health expert Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS me, this is why CFS was recently renamed systemic exertion intolerance disease.
6. You're Experiencing Symptoms Of Depression
When tiredness is your whole life, depression symptoms often won't be far behind. You might catch yourself getting a bit weepy when stressed out, or feeling like you can't handle anything. This is your exhaustion talking and it can be incredibly difficult to deal with.
7. Headaches Have Become An Issue
OK, so you're feeling tired, rundown, and achey. So let's go ahead and add headaches to that list, shall we? As Schreiber tells me, people with CFS often complain of headaches as a result of their exhaustion. And it ain't fun.
8. Little Things Wear You Out
Remember what I said about exercise? For some people, any type of physical exertion can lead to undue fatigue. "Simple tasks, such as showering, become exceedingly difficulty and can force you to bed," Straub says. Some CFS suffers can even become bedridden due to their fatigue.
9. You Have Heat And/Or Cold Intolerance
While nobody likes to be too hot or too cold, CFS expert Kristin Jekielek tells me people with the condition have a true intolerance. Instead of just being chilly on a cold day, for instance, you might feel entirely incapacitated. Or, you might feel dizzy and sick in the sun, while other's are simply warm.
10. Your Joints Are Sore
Another pesky symptoms? Sore joint. As Jekielek says, those with CFS often have "unusual and unexplained joint and muscle soreness. She tells me not al patients will have all these symptoms, but they're still something to look out for.
11. All Of This Has Been Ongoing
As I said above, for your symptoms to be true chronic fatigue they have to be, well, chronic. As Dr. Jennifer Caudle, board-certified family physician tells me, there must be a severe reduction in your ability to engage in activity for at least six months.
If you feel rundown and tired despite getting sleep, CFS may be the reason why. Talk with your doctor about any underlying causes that may be to blame, as well as ways to cope. Oh, and take care of yourself! A healthy lifestyle is often the best way to get better.
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