Sick of Being Tired? You May Be and Not Know It
March 14, 2005
By Katerie Prior
Are you tired ALL the time? More than, say, the average woman? You could be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Writer Katerie Prior shares information on this condition.
Six years ago, Adrienne Nadeau was a typical 13 year old. The then-Tampa, Florida teenager performed well in school, enjoyed studying drama and loved to read.
In her free time, she went to the mall with her friends, took babysitting jobs around her neighborhood, and played cards with her family.
In November of her eighth grade year, Nadeau caught what she thought was mono. Although she recovered a few weeks later, within a month, the teenager again felt tired and rundown. She could barely get dressed in the morning.
At school, she couldn't concentrate on her teachers' lectures. At home, she went to bed at 6 pm and awoke the next morning feeling as if she hadn't slept at all. "I was too tired to do anything," Nadeau recalls. "I was too sick to eat and I was bedridden. I slept endlessly, yet I was always exhausted."
Over night, Nadeau's life changed. "Most days I couldn't get out of bed. I was forced to drop out of school," she says. "Simple conversations would exhaust me. I didn't have the energy to hang out with my friends." Even small activities, such as going to a movie, took their toll on Nadeau's muscles and joints days after the event. "It got much, much worse," she says. "I was in too much pain to do anything."
Ask anyone how they feel these days and the reply is likely to be "tired." For people who have an overly-active lifestyle, face a lot of stress or simply skimp on sleep, feeling exhausted is the norm. But being tired can have other sources. Anyone may experience lethargy because of a poor diet, malnutrition, or even an eating disorder.
Weariness can even be a side-effect of medication. Psychological issues, such as grief, depression or boredom, can also make people feel worn out.
Watching for signs
While these feelings may pass for some people, for others, fatigue is a major, and sadly defining, factor in their lives.
For sufferers like Nadeau, changes in their life make little difference. After a full night's sleep, they wake up feeling tired and the sensation never goes away. They reason that everyone must feel like this and they're just being lazy. Or they rationalize that people are different and they just weren't meant to keep up.
Often, these sufferers do not realize that this kind of fatigue is the body indicating that something is seriously wrong.
"When fatigue affects performance or enjoyment of life, it should be addressed,"says Randall L. DeArment, DO.
At the University Health Services at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, DeArment takes fatigue seriously, since it is the first symptom of many diseases and disorders. Muscular diseases, such as forms of muscular dystrophy, first exhibit with symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness. Heart, liver and kidney disease also set in with fatigue.
In certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue is a sign that the disease is about to flare up, he says.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Then, there is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). While CFS has garnered more attention in recent years, it remains a mysterious disorder that causes severe fatigue, muscle and joint problems, and a decreased ability to concentrate. Researchers aren't sure of what causes CFS, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 500,000 people in the US have this syndrome.
One of those sufferers happens to be Nadeau. Months before she first got sick, her brother Andrew had been diagnosed with the syndrome.
Once she started showing symptoms, Nadeau's parents sought out health professionals right away. At first, the doctors were skeptical of her illness. "They thought I was seeking attention," she says. That soon changed when they began to examine her symptoms more closely. "I was lucky enough to be treated by a team that was doing CFS studies."
Changing your lifestyle
For people who suffer from fatigue, DeArment recommends that they first try to change their lifestyle. "The first treatment I prescribe is diet and exercise," he says. Getting adequate rest is also recommended as well as learning better ways to cope with stress. "Taking care of the basics should not be considered an alternative." If these changes don't minimize the fatigue, DeArment suggests seeing a doctor right away.
Since fatigue can lead to many different diagnoses, both physiological and psychological, DeArment recommends patients tell their doctors when their symptoms first appeared, how they are treating these symptoms, and how the fatigue is affecting their life.
"A family history of health problems also contributes," he says. "Disclose any medication use or any current therapies and their effectiveness."
"Patients seeking to relieve their fatigue may also go through a series of screening tests," DeArment continues. These tests range from urinalysis and blood tests to thyroid function and EKGs. "If I have a strong suspicion of a psychological component, I may do a Depression Screening test."
While the number of tests may sound substantial, these tests can help pinpoint a diagnosis. "I went through the basic elimination process," says Nadeau. "I had EKGs, psychological analysis, and all sorts of blood tests before I was officially diagnosed with CFS."
Once diagnosed, Nadeau resigned herself to a lifestyle that would help her to eventually recover. Currently, there is no cure for CFS and no specific treatment that consistently helps, so Nadeau's path to recovery has been difficult.
Eleven months after she was diagnosed, the syndrome went into remission, but a year later, the syndrome relapsed and she remained virtually bed-ridden for more than three years.
Nonetheless, Nadeau is glad she looked into her fatigue. Now at 19, she is trying to get her life back on track. She recalls the years that she suffered CFS as painful and devastating, but appreciates how the syndrome changed her perspective on life. "It's made the simple things much more precious," she says. "You want to enjoy walking around the block? Waking up refreshed? Going out to a low-key party with some friends? Spend years and years watching reruns and sleeping through life. Everything will seem like an adventure. CFS reminded me that life is short. We don't get a lot of second chances."
Source: SheKnows Network, online at http://sheknows.com
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