Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – 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 they 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 sodium (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’s 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.

FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, a person taking antidepressants should be watched for warning signs of suicide. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are changed.
What To Think About

* Corticosteroids have been shown to help relieve CFS symptoms somewhat, but they generally are not recommended because of their side effects. Although fludrocortisone has been commonly used in the past to treat orthostatic hypotension (a condition that people who have CFS are prone to in which their heart rate increases and their blood pressure drops when they stand or sit up quickly from a reclining position), recent studies show that it offers no real benefit when used on its own.3, 8
* 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 maintain a good attitude, which has been shown to be a great benefit to people with CFS.1

Author: Robin Parks, MS
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD – Internal Medicine

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