Too sleepy to be so­cial?

As model Laura Dundovic knows, chronic fa­tigue syn­drome is so much more than not be­ing able to get out of bed in the morn­ing.

CLEO (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE -

(Ex­pert tips to fix your fa­tigue)

It’s nor­mal to feel run-down from long hours of work or study, a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion, or one too many late nights out. The so­lu­tion? A few days of R&R. Where this tired­ness en­ters chronic fa­tigue syn­drome ter­ri­tory is when it’s un­ex­plained, wors­en­ing, and comes with a host of flu-like symp­toms.

Liv­ing It

Model and for­mer Miss Uni­verse Aus­tralia Laura Dundovic is one of 180,000 Aus­tralians af­fected by chronic fa­tigue syn­drome. It’s a bat­tle she tack­les ev­ery day – and some are worse than oth­ers. “I’ve had chronic fa­tigue for around 10 years now,” she says. “It can get hard but I just have to know my lim­its and rest when I have time off. A great day is get­ting by with­out a nap and a good day is not hav­ing any pain.” The name ‘chronic fa­tigue syn­drome’ leads people to be­lieve it’s about be­ing very tired, but it’s ac­tu­ally a com­plex, chronic ill­ness that af­fects a num­ber of sys­tems in the body in­clud­ing the im­mune, en­docrine, and ner­vous sys­tems. Be­cause it af­fects so many parts of the body, the ar­ray of symp­toms people with the con­di­tion ex­pe­ri­ence makes it hard to lead a nor­mal life. Dr Ni­cole Phillips, med­i­cal ad­vi­sor to a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion help­ing sufferers, ex­plains, “Some ome are able to work part-time. Oth­ers are house­bound and, at some stages, spend 18 to 23 hours in bed.” Laura is able to work, but has to put strate­gies in place so she can man­age her busy sched­ule. “I don’t re­ally drink al­co­hol. I try to eat clean, , but I am a chocoholic! I feel great when I ex­er­cise, but some­times it’s hard be­cause I’m so tired. And I sleep when­ever I can. I can sleep any­where!” In some se­vere cases, how­ever, a life out­side the house is im­pos­si­ble. Ke­tra Wood­ing, 28, from the Gold Coast, Queens­land, ex­plains, “I live in my bed in a dark, sound­proofed room. If I lie very still and think re­lax­ing, pos­i­tive thoughts, I ever so slowly get a lit­tle bit bet­ter. I miss the nor­mal things – friends, talk­ing to my fam­ily, mu­sic, TV, my com­puter, and most foods.”

A great day is get­ting by with­out a nap and

a good day is not hav­ing any pain

Symp­tom Alert

Tired­ness is only one as­pect of chronic fa­tigue, and Dr Phillips says it’s more akin to flu-type symp­toms. “Sufferers ex­pe­ri­ence in­fec­tive symp­toms such as swollen lymph glands, sore throat, low-grade fevers and night sweats. Other symp­toms in­clude limb pain, headaches, sleep dis­tur­bances, dizzi­ness, sen­si­tiv­i­ties to light, smell, and noise, and cog­ni­tive dif­fi­cul­ties with tasks in­volv­ing brain power or mul­ti­task­ing.” These symp­toms vary from one per­son to the next, and can even shift within the per­son them­self – one of Laura’s symp­toms is her throat clos­ing over. Ke­tra was train­ing to be a teacher be­fore chronic fa­tigue left her bed­bound. “It feels a bit like hav­ing a very bad flu with sea sick­ness, mi­graines, noise sen­si­tiv­ity, sun­burnt eyes, arthri­tis in the joints, tin­gling nerves, ants crawl­ing over you, a burn­ing spine and neck, frozen feet, and ex­treme brain fog all at once, day af­ter day, month af­ter month, year af­ter year.” In their en­tirety, these symp­toms take a toll on the body and, un­sur­pris­ingly, re­sult in ex­treme lethargy. “The con­di­tion is char­ac­terised by se­vere fa­tigue that is not al­le­vi­ated by rest and typ­i­cally has ‘pay­back’, mean­ing it gets worse with men­tal or phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity,” says Dr Phillips.

Mis­un­der­stood Con­di­tion

The range of symp­toms makes chronic fa­tigue syn­drome dif­fi­cult to iden­tify. “I had to be tested for ev­ery­thing un­der the sun be­fore chronic fa­tigue was di­ag­nosed,” says Laura. A triv­i­alised per­cep­tion of chronic fa­tigue also ex­ists among the gen­eral pub­lic, and even some of the med­i­cal com­mu­nity, thanks to its name – which doesn’t do the con­di­tion’s sever­ity jus­tice. Jes­sica Wynne, 27, from Bendigo, Vic­to­ria, was a cook and a sailor prior to de­vel­op­ing chronic fa­tigue but hasn’t worked since. She says, “I would love to get back to work, but have a body that fails me. People with this con­di­tion are se­ri­ously ill but un­be­lieved, in­clud­ing by the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion.” Clearly there is far more to this syn­drome than sim­ply be­ing “tired”.

Preven­tion And Man­age­ment

There is no cure for chronic fa­tigue, but Dr Phillips says a good prac­ti­tioner will aim to min­imise dis­com­fort. “We can al­le­vi­ate symp­toms such as pain or sleep dis­tur­bance. There are also man­age­ment strate­gies, such as ‘switch­ing’, which is about mov­ing from a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to a men­tal ac­tiv­ity to a rest pe­riod.” Jes­sica copes by con­serv­ing her strength. “If I’m go­ing out, I do very lit­tle in the days be­fore and af­ter or I’ll re­lapse.” Laura’s ad­vice is sim­ple: “Lis­ten to your body. If you start get­ting run-down, slow down.” Dr Phillips says the eas­i­est pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure people can put in place is tak­ing time off to prop­erly rest and re­cover. “Con­tin­u­ing to ‘push through’ can lead to dis­as­trous con­se­quences.”

Laura stug­gles with the symp­toms of chronic fa­tigue syn­drome daily.

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