What Are CFS and Fibromyalgia?
Chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS or CFS) is a group of symptoms associated with severe, almost unrelenting fatigue. The main symptom is fatigue that results in constant and substantial reduction in your activity level. Oddly, despite their constant exhaustion, people with CFS typically find that they can't sleep.
CFS can begin gradually, usually following a period of severe physical or emotional stress. It can also begin suddenly, feeling like a "drop dead flu" that you can't fully recover from. Other common symptoms may include:
- Brain fog
- Increased thirst
- Bowel disorders
- Recurring infections
- Easily exhausted
- Weight gain
- Low libido
CFS's sister illness, fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS or FM), is characterized by muscle pain — sometimes all over the body, or sometimes only in specific areas. These painful areas can be transient or persistent. FM pain is caused by a shortening, or tightening of the muscles. These muscles need sleep and nutrition, among other things, in order to heal. Since CFS/FM sufferers rarely sleep well, these muscles stay knotted and painful. For most sufferers, CFS and FM are the same illness. However, some people have fatigue without pain, whereas others have pain without fatigue.
What Causes These Illnesses?
Hypothalamic dysfunction. The hypothalamus is the body's master gland and can be likened to the main circuit in your home's breaker box. The hypothalamus is weakened by long term exposure to physical or emotional stress, which will cause it to "blow." When the main fuse blows, all of the systems regulated by the hypothalamus malfunction. These systems include the glands (affecting the thyroid, adrenals, and sex hormones), the autonomic system (which regulates body temperature, blood pressure, and the anti diuretic hormone), and the sleep center.
People with CFS/FM typically suffer from a combination of different problems. The pattern can include infections (viral or bacterial), insomnia and hormonal problems, a combination Dr. T refers to as the "autoimmune triad." Other possible underlying issues include immune system dysfunction, mild chronic low blood pressure, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and iron deficiency anemia.
What Do I Do Next?
Dr. Teitelbaum is the foremost authority on CFS and fibromyalgia and has dedicated his professional life to leading scientific research, finding treatments, and helping patients who have these illnesses. If you suspect that you have CFS or fibromyalgia, our website can help.
- Learn more about CFS & FM. Watch Dr. T's video series and read useful articles on CFS & FM.
- Sign up for our free weekly newsletter to stay informed on breaking news and events of interest related to CFS & FM.
- Find a CFS/FM practitioner near you who's been trained specifically in dealing with these illnesses.
- Find a CFS/FM support group.
- Join our Facebook Fan page.
- Consider counseling sessions over the phone from one of Dr. T's staff.
- If you're a medical practitioner, find out how to receive Dr. T's training through his CD-based workshop series.