Chronic fatigue syndrome : Treatment

Treatment

There is currently no cure for CFS. Instead, the symptoms are treated. Many people with CFS experience depression and other psychological problems that may improve with treatment.

Overall, the best strategy for treatment includes a combination of the following:

  • A healthy diet
  • Antidepressant drugs in some cases, usually low-dose tricyclic antidepressants
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and graded exercise for certain patients
  • Medication
  • Sleep management techniques

Work with your health care provider to find a level of activity you can handle. Then gradually increase your activity level. Activity management should involve:

  • Avoiding doing too much on days when you feel tired
  • Balancing your time between activity, rest, and sleep
  • Breaking big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones
  • Spreading out more challenging tasks throughout the week

Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques can be helpful in managing chronic pain and fatigue. They are not useful, however, as the primary treatment for CFS. A number of relaxation techniques are available, including:

  • Biofeedback
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Hypnosis
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Muscle relaxation techniques
  • Yoga

Some of the proposed treatments include:

  • Medications to reduce pain, discomfort, and fever
  • Medications to treat anxiety (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • Medications to treat depression (antidepressant drugs)

Some medications can cause adverse reactions or side effects that are worse than the original symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Patients with CFS are encouraged to maintain active social lives. Mild physical exercise may also be helpful.

Prognosis (Expectations)

The long-term outlook for patients with CFS varies and is difficult to predict when symptoms first start. Some patients completely recover after 6 months to a year. Others may take longer for a complete recovery.

Some patients never return to their pre-illness state. Most studies report that patients who are treated in an extensive rehabilitation program are more likely to recover completely than those patients who don’t seek treatment.

Complications

  • Depression (related both to symptoms and lack of diagnosis)
  • Lifestyle restrictions (some people are so fatigued that they are essentially disabled during the course of the illness)
  • Side effects and adverse reactions to medication treatments
  • Social isolation caused by fatigue

Calling Your Health Care Provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you experience persistent, severe fatigue, with or without other symptoms of this disorder. Other more serious disorders can cause similar symptoms and should be ruled out.

See also:Chronic fatigue syndrome – resources


Review Date : 2/7/2010
Reviewed By : Mark James Borigini, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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