Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disorder characterized by constant, severe, debilitating fatigue accompanied by a variety of associated physical, constitutional and neuropsychological complaints, such as flu-like symptoms, generalized pain, sleep disturbances, impaired memory and concentration, and headaches. Though the precise cause of CFS remains unknown, numerous and sometimes controversial hypotheses regarding its etiology name such causes as endocrine and immunological abnormalities, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, abnormal pain processing, and certain infectious illnesses, such as Epstein-Barr virus and viral meningitis. CFS is currently recognized as a serious medical condition, estimated to affect as many as half a million people in the United States based on the recent studies by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with CFS, with most patients being between 25 and 45 years old, although cases in childhood and in middle age have been described. People who have had a prior psychiatric disorder are nearly three times more likely to develop CFS later in life.
The typical case of CFS is characterized by its sudden onset in a previously healthy and active individual, usually precipitated by a flu-like illness or some other acute stress, and marked by debilitating exhaustion, as well as other symptoms, such as headaches, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, allergies, muscle and joint aches, frequent feverishness, along with disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating, and depression ensuing in the wake of the incident.
Even more frustrating than the uncertain etiology of CFS is that there is no known cure for the condition. In the context of Western medicine, treatment focuses on symptom management through various drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for headaches, diffuse pain and feverishness; antihistamines or decongestants for allergic rhinitis and sinusitis; and antidepressants and sleep aids to address mood and disordered sleep.
The inability to receive effective treatment for their CFS symptoms through Western medicine is often what leads patients to seek alternative methods that are not drug-based, either to replace or complement their current treatments. Oriental medicine combines the benefit of acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy and lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise, and meditation in its approach to CFS, and treatment focuses on naturally strengthening the immune system, increasing white blood cell, T-cell, and antibody count, helping the body fight the disease, facilitating release of endorphins to reduce pain and decrease fatigue, improving sleep and cognitive processing, promoting regained function and improved quality of life.
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