There is currently no cure for CFS. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Many people with CFS have depression and other psychological disorders that may improve with treatment.
Treatment includes a combination of the following:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and graded exercise for certain patients
Sleep management techniques
Medications to reduce pain, discomfort, and fever
Medications to treat anxiety (anti-anxiety drugs)
Medications to treat depression (antidepressant drugs)
Some medications can cause reactions or side effects that are worse than the original symptoms of the disease.
Patients with CFS are encouraged to maintain active social lives. Mild physical exercise may also be helpful. Your health care team will help you figure out how much activity you can do, and how to slowly increase your activity. Tips include:
Avoiding doing too much on days when you feel tired
Balancing your time between activity, rest, and sleep
Breaking big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones
Spreading out more challenging tasks throughout the week
Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques can help manage chronic pain and fatigue. They are not used as the primary treatment for CFS. Relaxation techniques include:
Deep breathing exercises
Muscle relaxation techniques
The long-term outlook for patients with CFS varies and is difficult to predict when symptoms first start. Some patients completely recover after 6 months to a year.
Some patients never feel like they did before they developed CFS. Studies suggest that you are more likely to get better if you receive extensive rehabilitation.
Inability to participate in work and social activities, which can lead to isolation
Side effects to medication or treatments
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you experience persistent, severe fatigue, with or without other symptoms of this disorder. Other more serious disorders can cause similar symptoms and should be ruled out.
Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris ED Jr., et al., eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008.
Engleberg NC. Chronic fatigue syndrome. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 131.
Santhouse A, Hotopf M, David AS. Chronic fatigue syndrome. BMJ. 2010;340:c738.
Ariel D. Teitel, MD, MBA, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.