By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an incurable condition for which there is no specific treatment. Treatment is therefore aimed at alleviating symptoms as much as possible and improving the patient’s quality of life. Some of the possible outcomes for patients include:
Recovery from the symptoms
Studies have shown that, on average, 5% of individuals suffering from CFS make a full recovery and almost 40% improve over time. Around 8% to 30% of sufferers find their condition improves enough for them to be able to return to the workplace. However, 5% to 20% find their symptoms become worse over time. An improved patient outcome in CFS is described as a reduction in the severity of fatigue as compared with the level of fatigue when the individual was first affected.
Children and adolescents who develop CFS have a significantly greater chance of recovering from the condition than adults who develop it. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the chances of recovery increase, the earlier an individual is diagnosed and treated.
CFS can have chronic and disabling effects on sufferers. As the condition worsens, sufferers may become unable look after themselves and lose their independence. This may be coupled with job loss and financial constraints. Therefore, it is not uncommon for this patient group to suffer from the emotional and psychological problems associated with long-term disability.
Individuals may find coping with variable and unpredictable symptoms difficult and develop a lack of self confidence, a sense of uncertainty regarding the future and emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, panic and guilt. In addition, patients may experience problems with memory and concentration.
The physical problems associated with CFS are not life threatening in themselves. However, the associated mental health problems that may manifest such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks can increase the risk of suicide among this patient group.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Feb 5, 2014