Physical and mental fatigue; headache, joints, muscles and throat; swollen lymph nodes and tender to the touch; Loss of concentration and not refreshing or restful sleep are symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), said Óscar Prospero García, an academic at the UNAM Faculty of Medicine (FM).
This strange condition, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, is extremely disabling and can be confused with the conditions of the century: depression, anxiety and anguish.
It is estimated that in Latin America between two and three percent of the population over 40 years of age suffers from CFS; in the United States the figure is between two and three million, he said.
It is more frequent in women, with a ratio of two for each man; It appears around the age of 40, but adolescents are not exempt, and in many patients it presents as a comorbidity, that is, it is accompanied by one or more diseases.
“CFS patients are often anxious and apprehensive, so they are likely to have depression as well.”
If you suspect having the disease, it is important to go to the doctor , because if an incomplete or wrong diagnosis is made, doctors will not be able to treat it and its effects will last indefinitely, the university student warned.
Those who suffer from CFS feel exhausted, as if they lived in a cloud, and practically do not leave the house. Although it is very disabling, it is not listed as a condition in labor law, in principle because most family doctors have difficulty diagnosing it, he said.
“On the other hand, when the doctor tells the patient that he has nothing, his self-esteem drops and, consequently, the clinical picture worsens.”
The researcher from the Physiology Department indicated that CFS can be confused with rheumatoid arthritis, since those affected complain of joint pain; with an infection that causes discomfort in the muscles; or with cancer, because one of its symptoms is inflammation of the lymph nodes.
“Typically, with the syndrome, the cervical lymph nodes swell up, from the chest up, so there is a sore throat, like there’s an infection.”
Symptoms similar to those of heart disease, such as chest pain, may also occur. “If it is the middle part of the chest, it is not a heart attack, but if it is the precordial region (above the heart) and the pain travels to the left arm, it should be treated as a potential heart attack,” he clarified.
Similarly, sleep disorder, a neurological disorder that could cause damage or fatigue, must be ruled out; and motor disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease.
According to some criteria, the symptoms must remain for at least six months for the diagnosis to be positive, but some specialists, such as Prospero García, maintain that it is too long a period.
“If one or more symptoms appear, they should be attended to immediately and studies should be undertaken; Four weeks is enough to have a diagnosis, because it is possible that after six months there will be consequences, since CFS has a great personal, family and social impact ”.
Prospero García considered that a genetic component is likely to be involved, but it has not been thoroughly investigated because it is practically impossible to create animal models to study the disease.
When chronic fatigue syndrome is correctly diagnosed, treatment is relatively straightforward. It must include cognitive behavioral therapy, since it helps the person to see how their condition is living; “The thoughts of anxious, depressed, or other psychiatric patients can be changed.”
A little exercise is also recommended. Although they suffer fatigue and muscle and joint pain, it is important to encourage them to walk, because along with cognitive behavioral therapy, light exercise is decisive in their improvement. “If they report comorbidity with depression, they can receive pharmacological treatment.”
The FM academic warned that when a person with CFS stays at home, the condition becomes stronger; In addition, levels of the hormone cortisol are triggered, which is released in response to stress.
“The disabling condition of this syndrome and its consequences (job loss, for example) are believed to cause patients to become stressed and the syndrome to worsen. It is a cycle that feeds back and it is essential to break ”