Tue 12th May 2015: International CFS/ME Awareness Day
Why do we need awareness? Because it awful. Because it can happen to anyone. Because it can incapacitate you. Because it will affect your loved ones. Because you might not even know or understand what you are going through. However, one of the most important reasons for me is: Because it’s an invisible illness that can ruin your life.
It was only until recent times that the Department of Health accepted ME/CFS as a genuine medical condition. The diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is however still a debate among many doctors because the symptoms are also relevant to those of many other medical conditions nowadays. For this reason, the diagnosis of ME/CFS is a result of a process of elimination where other conditions are tested and eliminated off the patients possible causes of sickness. Then and only then, can ME/CFS be diagnosed.
There are still loop holes and mistakes that this method of diagnosis presents. After being sick for over 6 month (which is usually what will take you to realize there is something really wrong with you) that last thing you want to go through is a slow process of diagnostics. At first you don’t really understand why you feel so tired. You try to rest however no matter how many hours of sleep you put in, you are still tired. You feel that you have an eternal sore throat or cold that does not go away. Even the tiniest physical exercise will leave you out of breath. Sometimes, your muscles just ache even if you didn’t move them at all. These and other symptoms added to daily stress skyrockets the condition and unfortunately diagnosis does not come in time to help the person on to recovery.
What are the most common symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
· Muscle Exhaustion
· Extreme Tiredness and Fatigue
· Immune System Fails (feeling like you are always sick)
· Memory fails, lack of concentration, clumsiness (brain and nervous system gets affected)
· Sleep that does not help, sleep disturbances
· Irritable Bowl Symptoms similarity
· Mood swings and/or depression
There are many medical conditions which symptoms can be confused with ME/CFS. That is why it is so important to have a proper diagnosis to avoid medicating wrongfully.
Anemia: As tired and drained as you might feel, there is a possibility that you may be suffering from anemia. So blood exams will be necessary to discard the possibility of anemia.
White Cell Count: The increase of white blood cells can be a sign of the body fighting off an infection.
ESR or acute phase protein changes: Also suggests that there is an infection going on inside your body that requires attention. However, people who suffer from CFS normally have normal ESR readings.
Liver, Thyroid and Kidney Functions: You might get mixed alerts here. Liver function may be affected when suffering from CFS but mainly because some antidepressant drugs may trigger liver inflammation. However, thyroid and Kidney function will be normal despite suffering from CFS.
Biochemistry of the Body: Even when suffering from ME/CFS the readings on the results should be all at a normal range. Calcium and potassium levels may be due to other medical conditions.
The previous are only a few of the conditions that can be mistaken for ME/CFS, however there are a few others that fall in the same category. This is one of the reasons why it is so hectic and slow to be diagnosed with CFS.
Last but not least, I can tell you from personal experience that the people around you will either help you, make you feel better, understand you or on the other hand completely ridicule you and make you feel like you are being the biggest drama queen or just lazy .
You will have people tell you “it can’t be that bad” or “I’m so tired too” and you very well know that what you feel inside is VERY bad and that you are FATIGUED, not just tired. You wish someone could really understand you yet you find the complete opposite and eventually these people can be up for an unpleasant surprise when they realize you can’t even get out of bed.
People who suffer from ME/CFS, like me, could use some awareness from others. So this month, make is special for us please. We have are horrible days, not so good days, and our “we can handle it” days. This never goes away. No one deserves to suffer from CFS and much less be misunderstood by it.