Harish Jharia

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19 June 2012

Modern Days’ rare ailment: The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS

© Harish Jharia 

Before writing the above title, in fact I wrote the title as “Intellectuals’ rare ailment: The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”. Nevertheless, I changed it to the current-one just because of having some doubts about its victims that are not only highly qualified professional, but even the common housewives managing their homes across the world. 

It is found that chronic fatigue syndrome CFS affects tens of thousands of people across the world. Young to middle-aged adult females are more commonly affected as compared to their male counterparts. People with CFS are usually found unable to perform normally at work and home because of their prolonged fatigue and short-term memory. This ailment can also lead to depression. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that depression cannot be a cause for CFS. 

I do not want to make this article too very complicated and would like to relate it to some true stories and make it quite interesting and informative. 

The first story: 
a report has been published in the Times of India a couple of days back. It is about a young engineering graduate Iqbal (imaginary name) in his middle twenties who joined a highly paid software job in Bangalore.  Iqbal resigned his dream job merely after eight months citing an unusual reason, that is ‘brain-fogginess’. 
His parents and friends initially refused to believe all this about Iqbal. But to their utter surprise all of them noticed an unusual pattern in his behavior. They found that it was difficult to interact with Iqbal in the mornings; because of the long pauses and monosyllabic answers they got from him. Evenings were, however a bit better as Iqbal seemed sharper. 
If someone at his workplace asked him for his address, he would take quite a long to recollect it. While doing any task like following a computer command seemed to be an uphill task for him. He sometimes would even fall asleep at his desk during working hours. 

The second story: 
There was front a page news on 19 June 2012 in the TOI about a 24 year youth, a high-profile professional who, in such an early age, amassed wealth worth 20 crore (200 million… hope I have calculated correctly). This youngster committed suicide by hanging himself out of utter loneliness. He was a recluse who rarely mingled with others and when he lost his mother out of cardiac arrest few months ago, he was rendered completely isolated from social life. He had lost his father 5 years back succumbing to a fall at their residence. 
He was initially posted at Chennai, but opted for a transfer recently in order to stay with his mother. 
This does not appear to be a simple case of mere solitude, because there is rampant loneliness among all of us in this age of corporate life. The 24 year boy appears to be suffering from something more serious ailment like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS and the added solitude might have acted as an accelerator.  
I think his late parents could have thought about solemnizing marriage of their son immediately after completing his academics or at least on getting a job for himself. Had he got married on time and had a life-partner to live with, he probably might not have taken this extreme step of killing himself. 

The third story: 
I heard about another young man in his early twenties who did his BTech from an IIT and after completing the course got so very fatigued that he left his higher studies of MBA midway. Being a pass-out from an IIT, he was offered many prestigious jobs including MTNL and other renowned companies. Nevertheless, this young man did not continue with any of the jobs and finally chose a solitary life in a small town with his old parents. He also continued to be unmarried.

It usually happens with some of the unfortunate highly qualified professionals with engineering, software and management degrees from prestigious institutes. They unexpectedly refuse to follow the normal way of life and resort to self-imposed solitary confinement. Some of them even renounce the worldly life and eventually turn into baba or swami in an ashram. 

All of these people have a couple of common factors among them and they are as follows:
  1. They have been students of prestigious institutions like IIT, IIM etc where they had to work hard and study for prolonged hours for completing their hi-tech huge syllabus of international standard.  
  2. All of these people, with rare exceptions, are unmarried and absolutely single. 
I think that some of the unfortunate people out of the above category of hi-tech professionals might become victims of the dreaded ailment called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS. The victims might also be comparatively more emotional, introvert, lonely and inactive by nature as compared to their more practical and inactive counterparts. 

People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS experience the following symptoms: 
  1. Fatigue (tiredness, lethargy): People with CFS have long-term fatigue, lasting longer than 6 months to a year, without any other health complication or ailment. People with CFS may have had an infection in the past when the disease rendered them tired and run down. Nevertheless, the fatigue continues after the recovery from the illness.
  2. Cognitive difficulties (reasoning, intuition, or perception): people with CFS have problems of short-term memory loss and not long-term memory problems. They may have problems finding or saying a particular word during normal speech (called dysnomia or verbal dyslexia).
  3. Post-exertion fatigue: CFS patients are exceptionally and excessively tired after doing normal activities in day to day lives. Normal people do not get that much exhausted after normal physical activities.
  4. Fatigue after sleep: CFS patients also complain of fatigue even after prolonged rest or sleep. They do not feel refreshed after sleeping like others. 
  5. Depression: People with CFS may become patient of depression because of their inabilities in performing at their work-place or at home. Nevertheless, it is not the other way round. Patients of depression do not acquire CFS out of their ailment.
  6. General physical problems: Other symptoms that may be seen in the patients of CFS include headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and even mild fever.
Causes of chronic fatigue syndrome:  
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories — ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors. There's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome CFS. The patient may have to undergo a variety of medical tests to establish whether the symptoms are due to CFS or are indicating at some other ailment. 

Treatments of chronic fatigue syndrome:  
  1. As stated by Mayo Clinic staff on their official site the Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome is focused on symptom relief. As I understand from this statement, the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome is done symptom by symptom. That means that no single medicine has yet been discovered for CFS as a single ailment like infection, deformation, injury etc. therefore each symptom of CFS is treated independently with its relevant medicines and drugs. We may enlist the following probable treatments that might be effective for treating the patients of this rare ailment if done in a proper way: 
  2. Antidepressants: Many people who have chronic fatigue syndrome are also depressed. Treating their depression can make it easier for the patient to cope with the problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. And low doses of some antidepressants also can help improve their sleep and relieve physical pains.
  3. Sleeping pills: Home measures, such as avoiding caffeine, are tried for getting good sleep. In case it does not help in getting better rest at night, the doctor might suggest trying with some medicines for good sleep.
  4. Therapy: The most effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome appears to be a two-pronged approach that combines psychological counseling with a gentle exercise program.
  5. Graded exercise: A physiotherapist can help determine what types of exercises are best for a CFS patient. Inactive people often begin with range-of-motion and stretching exercises for just a few minutes a day. Proper care has to be taken to limit the severity and period of exercise so that the patient does not feel over exhausted.  Patient’s strength and endurance will improve as he / she gradually increase the intensity of exercise over passage of time.
  6. Psychological counseling: Counseling with an expert psychologist would help the patient to figure out options to work around some of the limitations that chronic fatigue syndrome impose. Feeling more in control of your life can improve your outlook towards life dramatically. 
This article is written based on my personal observations and on the information collected from the media. My intention for publishing the same is to provide healthy reading and intellectual entertainment and not for educating the visitors. No literature or authentic books have been referred for writing the contents of this article. The visitors are advised not to refer the contents of this article for any research or testimony on athletic or legal purposes. The visitors are further advised to consult relevant experts before adapting any information from this article. The author or the website are not responsible for any errors, mistakes, or omissions there in.
- Harish Jharia

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