By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA
Her muscles and joints ached. Her throat was raw and sore and throbbing headaches came on without warning. She felt foggy-headed all the time, and had trouble remembering simple thoughts or following reruns of familiar TV sitcoms. Even though she was bone-tired all the time, she had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. And there was no stamina for everyday tasks, let alone the activities she enjoyed doing with family and friends. At 41, she couldn’t keep up with her 68-year-old mother. She felt like she was going crazy.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a serious medical condition that can easily be overlooked because it mimics so many other disorders.
Chronic fatigue may be so profound and debilitating that it can affect work, school and family life.
The CDC reports that between 1 and 4 million Americans suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
What are the Symptoms of CFS?
- feeling tired even after sleeping
- muscle pain or aches
- pain or aches in joints without swelling or redness
- feeling discomfort or “out-of-sorts” for more than 24 hours after being active
- headaches of a new type, pattern, or strength
- tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the arm
- sore throat
It’s important to partner with your doctor or health care provider. By being proactive and an empowered patient you can help get the care and treatment you need. Trust, mutual respect and communication are vital for the doctor/patient relationship. Be honest and open and allow yourself to be in charge of your health.
Before your appointment with your doctor, it’s important to be prepared.
Here are some of my tips:
- Take your medical history form with you which includes a list of your medications. You can download a free personal medical history and medications form here.
- It’s always a good idea to have someone with you. A trusted family member or friend can help make sense all the information that is given.
- Keep a journal of your symptoms, and bring it with you. Write down symptoms you may be experiencing. When did the symptoms start? Are they triggered by some activity? How long do the symptoms last? Are they constant?
- Write down any questions. Writing a list of questions in advance can help you stay focused and it will allow you to make the best use of time.
Get the conversation started. Here are a few questions to ask your doctor:
- What are the causes of my symptoms?
- Will the symptoms go away? How long will they last?
- What tests are needed to determine the CFS?
- How is CFS diagnosed? What are the criteria for diagnosis?
- What is the treatment?
- Are there alternative therapies? Over-the-counter medications? Prescriptions? What are they? Will my present medications interfere with any of these new medications?
- Should my diet change? Are there certain foods that I should be eating?
- What lifestyle changes should be made?
These are just a few ideas to help make the most of the office visit. Remember to speak up and take charge of your health. If you don’t understand something, ask to have the information repeated and it’s okay to take notes during your visit.
To find out who gets CFS, diagnosis, treatment, coping and more; please check out these additional sources.