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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (cont.)

Medications

Medicines do not cure chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): they only help relieve symptoms. They may not greatly speed up your return to full activity. But when medicines are used properly, they can help you feel better.

Medication choices

Over-the-counter medicines include:

  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs:Over-the-counter drugs, including acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (for example, Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (for example, Aleve), are used to treat frequent or severe joint and muscle pain, headaches, and fevers. Do not take aspirin if you are younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants: These over-the-counter drugs are used to relieve nasal stuffiness and other symptoms caused by colds and allergies.

Prescription medicines include:

  • Codeine, morphine, and meperidine (Demerol): These drugs are prescribed by a doctor for pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter drugs. They generally are reserved for the most severe cases. Because of the risk of addiction, they are used only on a short-term basis.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants are prescribed by a doctor to ease depression and anxiety, improve your ability to concentrate, help you sleep better, and decrease fatigue and muscle pain.

What to think about

Some research has studied the use of corticosteroids (such as hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone) to treat chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Studies have shown that these medicines do not work very well to treat CFS. And the side effects can be serious. Unless corticosteroids can be shown to have a greater benefit for people with CFS over a longer period of time, the side effects associated with long-term corticosteroid therapy outweigh the benefits from their use in most cases.

Depression often becomes a part of chronic fatigue syndrome and can make your symptoms worse. Like any medical illness, depression needs to be treated. If you have CFS and are depressed, tell your doctor how you feel. Antidepressants and counseling can help you keep a good attitude, which has been shown to be a great benefit to people who have CFS.

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