Understanding Fatigue Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Understanding Fatigue Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Concentration problems, weakness, tiredness, lack of drive: Fatigue symptoms (fatigue in German means tiredness, exhaustion) can have a massive impact on everyday life. The problem with fatigue: Even with enough sleep, the symptoms don’t get any less. Fatigue (also fatigue syndrome ) is a side effect that many people with cancer suffer from during the cancer – estimates vary between 14 and 96 per cent. Challenging to deal with is often the lack of understanding of the environment when you can’t bring yourself to do anything.

Causes of fatigue in cancer

The causes of fatigue (pronounced fatieg) are not all clear. Of course, the cancer itself plays a role. Fatigue syndrome is prevalent in certain types of cancer, such as leukaemia or breast cancer. However, the therapy itself also contributes to fatigue since radiation and chemotherapy are an enormous burden even for healthy cells. In addition, harmful metabolic products accumulate during chemotherapy, which can intensify fatigue syndrome.

In addition, numerous side effects occur with cancer, which in turn promote or exacerbate fatigue: repeated infections, side effects of medication, pain and nausea. Malnutrition and muscle breakdown, which are common in cancer, can also aggravate fatigue syndrome. A significant cause is anaemia, which increases tiredness and exhaustion. Another important influencing factor is the mental stress of cancer.

How exactly the physical and psychological factors interact individually and individually to lead to fatigue syndrome is still being researched.


Fatigue: Symptoms and Signs

The profound exhaustion and fatigue can play out on one or more levels. The following symptoms show the physical (physical) fatigue:

  • increased need for sleep
  • constant tiredness
  • limited physical capacity
  • sleep disorders

Cognitive and mental fatigue affects attention and memory. The following symptoms can occur:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • listlessness
  • low frustration level and high irritability
  • social isolation

Identify and treat fatigue.

First, the doctor will get to the bottom of all physical causes. Their treatment follows anaemia, a nutrient deficiency, a metabolic disorder or an infection if possible. Pain and nausea, as well as other symptoms associated with cancer, are treated, and medication may be changed. In addition to a conversation about the history of the disease, questionnaires are often used to narrow down the symptoms present more precisely.

However, treating fatigue by simply combating the cause often does not help satisfactorily against the symptoms. It is, therefore, important that those affected by fatigue do something themselves. The first step: the information that fatigue is a widespread accompanying symptom of cancer often relieves the burden on those affected and their relatives. It is also good to know that although fatigue syndrome lasts longer, it says nothing about the course of the disease and often improves over time.

The doctor will also explain that it is essential to exercise despite the weakness: activity often improves fatigue symptoms and positively influences the overall healing process. Relaxation methods help people cope with everyday life and optimize sleeping patterns. Cancer counselling centres, psycho-oncology experts and self-help groups also assist in dealing with fatigue syndrome for those affected and their families.


MS fatigue and burnout

However, fatigue does not only occur with cancer but also more rarely with other chronic physical or mental illnesses, for example, the fatigue syndrome in multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatism, Parkinson’s disease or burnout. Despite similar names and symptoms, in Germany, the cancer-induced fatigue syndrome is differentiated from myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). In other countries, on the other hand, this chronic fatigue syndrome is not a disease of its own.

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