A new diagnostic tool for chronic fatigue syndrome may help clear up common misunderstandings among the public and even some doctors. That’s good news if you’re one of the many patients who are tired of being told that their symptoms are imaginary.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a biomarker that allows them to test how an individual’s immune cells respond to stress. The results so far have been highly accurate in diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome.
This is major progress compared to the current time-consuming and confusing method of examining symptoms. It also creates an opportunity to develop more effective medications.
Until there is a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, you may be able to find relief through lifestyle changes and other strategies. Learn more about the symptoms and how to live with them.
- Know the figures. As many as 2.5 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome, but most of them have not been diagnosed, according to the Institute of Medicine. Women have a 2 to 4 times higher risk than men, and age and stressful events can also be factors.
- Identify core symptoms. Three symptoms must be present to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. That includes extreme fatigue, sleep disorders, and post-exertional malaise, which means that your physical and mental functioning declines after you exert yourself. Your doctor will also check to see if you have difficulty thinking clearly or feel faint when you stand or sit up.
- Watch for other symptoms. You’ll probably experience some other symptoms too. Soreness, swollen joints, sore throats, and allergies are common.
- Keep a journal. Many patients find that it helps to write down their experiences. You can use your journal to jog your memory and monitor your symptoms.
- Prioritize sleep. Positive sleep habits matter even more when you have chronic fatigue syndrome. Try to wake up at the same time each morning and block out sounds and lights that may keep you up at night.
- Manage activity levels. Pacing yourself is vital to protecting your health and will actually help you to accomplish more. If you overdo it, you could wind up needing bed rest for days or weeks.
- Exercise carefully. On the other hand, working out can help you stay fit. Ask your doctor to help design a routine that’s safe for you.
- Seek relaxation. Stress may aggravate your symptoms, so find a relaxation method that works for you. Try meditation, massage or listening to music.
- Eat healthy. A balanced diet will give your body more energy and help prevent weight gain. Focus on whole foods and avoid excess sugar.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. Too many cocktails and cups of coffee can further disrupt your sleep. You may want to give them up or cut down.
- Reach out. While society is becoming better-informed about chronic fatigue syndrome, you may still feel isolated or struggle with the adjustments you need to make in your daily life. Join a support group or online forum where you can meet others in the same position.
- Consult your employer. Many patients want to continue working or find it financially necessary. Research your legal rights and ask your employer about providing the accommodations you’ll need.
- Talk with your doctor. While there is no approved treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, your doctor may be able to help with your most troubling symptoms. That may include medications for sleep and pain, and therapy to work on coping skills.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a challenging condition to live with, but recent studies offer new hope for more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Talk with your doctor and try lifestyle changes that can help you to manage your symptoms and enjoy more of the activities you love.