CFS has gone by many other names, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic mononucleosis. It also overlaps with other illnesses such as fibromyalgia, depression, and hypothyroidism.
CFS can start suddenly or gradually and last for years, although in adolescents and young adults it usually starts suddenly and either goes away or is much better within a year. CFS affects two to four times more girls than boys; in adolescents and young adults, the female preponderance may be even higher.
The cause of CFS has not been identified, nor are there specific tests available to diagnose the condition.
The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome may resemble those of other medical conditions, which must be ruled out before making a diagnosis of CFS. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
A specific treatment for CFS has yet to be proven effective. Medications to relieve symptoms are sometimes useful, but patients with CFS tend to have many side effects from medications, so drugs must be used cautiously and are usually begun in low doses.
Many patients with CFS have lost physical fitness due to the severe fatigue; graded exercise can often help. Improvements in sleep habits can also be of benefit. Encouraging as much pleasant or necessary activity as is tolerable (such as attending school or working), even if only very part-time initially, can also help patients cope or recover.
Finally, cognitive therapy (helping patients gain insight into their condition and develop better coping mechanisms) can also be of great help.