CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome) is also known as CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), CEBV (chronic Epstein-Barr virus), M. E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis), and "yuppie flu." It is a complex disorder of unknown origin, though considerable biomedical research has indicated that it is likely triggered by viruses and other causative agents.
Typically, CFIDS is characterized by a variety of indicators the most prominent of which is a debilitating fatigue, experienced as exhaustion and extremely poor stamina; especially following exercise levels that would ordinarily have been easily tolerated. Symptoms are both physical and psychological and may include: Low-grade fever, sore throat, painful lymph nodes, muscle weakness, muscle discomfort or pain, sleep disturbances (hypersomnia or insomnia), headaches, joint pain, forgetfulness, irritability, confusion, difficulty concentrating, reasoning, and/or speaking (dyslogia), depression, anxiety-- including possible "panic attacks"-- and frequent mood swings. Others that have been reported include, hypersensitivity of the skin, dryness of the mouth and eyes; hearing difficulties; chest pains, irregular heart beat; abdominal pain, irritable bowel; numbness or burning in the face or extremities; rashes, allergic reactions; sensitivities to odors, chemicals and medications; lightheadedness-- feeling in a "fog", even fainting.
Though CFIDS presents a broad spectrum of symptoms, people who suffer with the disorder do not generally report all the above maladies; and many of them occur in those without CFIDS. So before you run to the phone in a panic or collapse on your living room floor, convinced you are a CFIDS sufferer, be advised of the working case diagnosis.
The major criteria include: (1) The development (or relapse) of a debilitating fatigue, in someone with no history of such symptoms, which does not resolve with bed rest and reduces average daily activity by fifty percent for a period of at least six months. (2) Exclusion of other plausible disorders as a function of history and physical exam.
Be advised that, at present, though tremendous strides are being made in clinical research to identify the specific causes and manifestations of this disorder, to date, there is no conclusive diagnosis or cure for CFIDS. However, the symptoms are quite real and debilitating; and like other disorders for which the etiology and cure are unknown (i.e. arthritis), there is a recommended treatment program. The treatment regimen contains physical and psychological components, and there is considerable overlap between them.
Physical elements include what you place in or do with your body-- medication, exercise and diet. While certain drugs (i.e., Gamma Globulin) have been used to alleviate fatigue and pain, the most promising research has been with a broad-spectrum antiviral drug in a class known as, "Biological response modifiers." The drug, "Ampligen" has been shown in many cases to counteract symptoms that reduce physical endurance and alertness. Dietary considerations are of great importance and influence the symptom severity. Adding an abundance of fruits, vegetables and pastas and avoiding fried foods, sugar, "Nutra-sweet", caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and chocolate, can in many cases minimize symptoms. Furthermore, certain vitamin-- B12, C, A, E and minerals-- have been beneficial in over-coming the functional blockades created by the disorder that prevents the absorption of vital nutrients by the body.
During the course of the illness, it is important to recognize and abide by certain physical limits, as over-exertion can weaken the body. Symptoms tend to improve with rest. However, limit-setting should be flexible-- adjusted on a daily basis as a function of your stamina. Exercise can run the gamut of brief walking to increasingly distant places, to more strenuous biking, swimming and aerobics. It is useful to push yourself to your limit (the point at which your body signals you to "take five."), rather than succumbing to sedentary urges and justifying your immobility with the "C-word" (can't).
Moderate exercise is beneficial in the reduction of emotional stress. While the latter has not been shown to cause the disorder, it does seem to seriously exacerbate the symptoms. Emotional stress can drain you of vital energy, obtained through rest and moderate exercise, needed to combat the disorder! Stressors from simple daily tasks to internal experiences of "worry" about the persistence of CFIDS can have a serious impact on some of the cognitive and emotional-state symptoms previously identified. Thus, it is imperative for CFIDS individuals to learn stress-reduction methods tailored to their needs. Be here next time ready to pay attention.