Q:  If there is no treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), what can my health care professional do to help me?

A:  Even though the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome has not been identified, your health care professional can treat the symptoms that you experience as a result of the illness. It is important to tell your health care professional about any symptoms you experience since many are also symptoms of other diseases that can be treated. Your health care professional can also recommend support groups and other therapies to help you cope with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Q:  Why do my chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms seem to come and go?

A:  Although chronic fatigue syndrome can persist for many years, long-term studies indicate that CFS generally is not a progressive illness. The symptoms usually are most severe in the first year or two. Thereafter, symptoms typically stabilize and then persist chronically, wax and wane, or improve. Currently, an individual's course of illness cannot be predicted.

Q:  How can my health care professional diagnose CFS if there is no known cause and no diagnostic tests available?

A:  Your health care professional will determine if you have chronic fatigue syndrome based on your symptoms and medical history, and through the use of medical tests and examinations that will rule out any other causes for your symptoms.

Q:  Will I ever be cured of chronic fatigue syndrome?

A:  There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome at this time. In fact, there is no treatment for CFS, only treatments for the symptoms of CFS, such as headaches and sore throats. Most patients partially recover and some fully recover. Others experience periodic relapses. Since little is known about the cause and progression of chronic fatigue syndrome, the course of your individual illness cannot be predicted.

Q:  Is chronic fatigue syndrome contagious?

A:  There is no published data to indicate that chronic fatigue syndrome is contagious, that it can be transmitted through intimate or casual contact or by blood transfusion, or that people with chronic fatigue syndrome need to be isolated in any way.

Q:  What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

A:  Besides debilitating fatigue that is not alleviated by rest, common symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include: more intense or changed patterns of headaches, reduced short-term memory or concentration, recurrent sore throats, tender lymph nodes, muscle discomfort or pain, joint pain without joint swelling or redness, and sleep that is unsatisfying and fails to refresh. You may not experience all of these symptoms. The severity of symptoms varies with each individual.

Q:  Can chronic fatigue syndrome be confused with other illnesses or diseases?

A:  Yes. That is why it is very important to seek the advice of a health care professional if you suspect you have chronic fatigue syndrome. Even if you have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, you should talk to your health care professional about any new symptoms or changes in the course of your illness so that he or she can rule out other causes.

Q:  Besides medical treatments for my symptoms, what can I do to minimize the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome?

A:  Often, health care professionals will suggest lifestyle changes, such as increased rest, the use of stress reduction and management techniques, dietary restrictions, nutritional supplementation and minimal exercise. Supportive therapy, such as counseling, can also help to identify and develop effective coping strategies.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)