Chronic Fatigue Syndrome–Definition and Symptoms

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What Is It?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)–aka chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) aka myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)–is an illness characterized by intense, deep, and persistent fatigue and exhaustion. Definite immune system abnormalities have been found in the majority of CFS patients, hence the alternate names (“myalgic” = of or relating to myalgia, which is muscle pain; “encephalomyelitis = inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, usually due to viral infection).

About 1 million, less than 1%, of Americans have CFS, and among them, more women are affected than men. The cause is unknown–though current thoughts trend toward infection, immune disorder, or neurological disorder–and there is no cure. CFS produces some similar symptoms to fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and the two often occur together, but there are differences.

What Are the Symptoms?

A syndrome is a set of symptoms that occur together, indicating the existence of a particular disease. Therefore, chronic fatigue syndrome most commonly presents the following set of symptoms:

  • as stated above, overwhelming, persistent fatigue
  • post-exertional malaise–disproportionate exhaustion lasting at least a day after mental or physical exercise
  • pain–muscle pain; joint pain without swelling or redness; headaches
  • unrefreshing sleep; sleep difficulties
  • impaired memory and concentration; brain fog, cognitive difficulties
  • frequent or recurring sore throats
  • tender and/or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • other flu-like symptoms

Additional symptoms (and disorders) that often occur along with these are:

  • gastrointestinal problems
  • allergies and sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications
  • depression, mood swings, irritability
  • visual disturbances (blurry sight, light sensitivity, eye pain)
  • dizziness, balance problems, fainting; difficulty maintaining an upright posture
  • chills, night sweats
  • gynecological problems, including PMS
  • chronic inflammation of the bladder wall (interstitial cystitis), chronic pelvic pain
  • temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

I think what really sets CFS apart from FMS are the flu-like symptoms that often precipitate and accompany the illness. If not for a lack of these flu-like symptoms, I would believe that I have chronic fatigue syndrome rather than fibro. But who knows. I could even have both, which is called comorbidity–the simultaneous presence of 2 (or more) chronic medical conditions in 1 person. Many fibro and CFS sufferers can attest to having comorbidity.

Are you a CFS sufferer? Do you experience comorbidity? How do you cope?

DIY Adaptive Technology–Crocheting

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As you know, my newest obsession hobby is crocheting. The impetus to delve into this craft was to give me something semi-constructive to do while having bouts of fatigue and being in bed all day, though awake most of the time. The enslaving cycle of Netflix and sleep could no longer be endured, especially once it started creating additional problems for me. So I began crocheting. But, as is typical for chronic pain and illness sufferers, I ran into some obstacles:  1) I developed tendonitis in my left thumb joint from holding my work-in-progress too tightly and 2) the metal crocheting hooks were giving me sores on my right hand and fingers. At first, I tried to be more relaxed and not hold myself or my project too tightly, but no matter how much I willed myself to stay loose, I ALWAYS ended up gradually getting tighter and tighter until sparks of pain broke my focus. As it seemed I would not be able to help myself without external assistance, I went to the “Google box”, as my husband calls it :-), and began researching tools for helping crocheters with hand problems. Surprisingly, I found ZERO articles about how to stop the hand that holds the working (“work-in-progress”) yarn and yarn tail, which is my left hand, from cramping up and getting strained. I was very disappointed and on the verge of giving up when I thought, “Well, how do one-handed people crochet?” This wasn’t a completely ridiculous question since adaptations and assistive technologies for one-handed and one-armed people have been developed for every activity under the sun that they can be. So that was my next query for the “Google box” and, though the relevant results were still small, I did get some useful information. The most helpful and relevant sources I found were the following:

http://knittingandcrochetingonehanded.blogspot.com/2011/05/knitting-and-crocheting-one-handed.html

http://www.abledata.com/abledata.cfm?pageid=19327&top=15710&ksectionid=19327&productid=74168&trail=0&discontinued=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000UBFE1Y/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000UBFE1Y&linkCode=as2&tag=croc05a-20

 

http://www.amazon.com/Edmunds-6111-Universal-Craft-Stand/dp/B000YZ7M0W/ref=pd_sim_sbs_hpc_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=010PQDP9CKSV31F4DP01

 

http://www.amazon.com/CLOTILDE-TH-100-Third-Hand-Sewing/dp/B00CDB5DMY/ref=sr_1_7?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1416365299&sr=1-7&keywords=clamp+it

 

http://www.abledata.com/abledata.cfm?pageid=19327&top=15710&ksectionid=19327&productid=79384&trail=0&discontinued=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As was true of the results for my first search, the first two sources only relate to replacing the hand that holds the hook (the right hand). Nonetheless, they made me wonder if there was a holding device that would hold the work instead of the hook.

This line of thought led me to the third and fourth sources which were still not what I wanted, but helped me to better visualize what I had in mind. I wanted to find something that would hold crochet work instead of embroidery work. No such thing exists, BUT the “third hand” product from the fifth source was mentioned in an article and it was almost perfect! I just needed a larger clamp and no elastic band but an adjustable neck instead.

 

I bought some cell phone holders online that clamped onto tables like binder clips do, had flexible necks, and had wide “claws” that looked like they would hold my work on each of its sides (pictured above). Unfortunately, they are a bit larger than I anticipated so bending them to the right distance apart is difficult. And the “claws” do not hold on tightly enough to the work so that it’s taut and I can push the crochet hook through. I’m still trying to find a way to create what I see in my mind. This version of the “third hand”–http://www.amazon.com/Stitching-Helper-Hemming-Embroidery-Sewing/dp/B004QJ3LSE/ref=pd_sbs_ac_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=0WRMWXMJWW5PCWW5BRKM–is much closer and though it still has a small clamp for the work, that should be good enough for holding the row I am currently working on. I may buy two of these and see if I’m right…

 

The last source in the list, Kroh’s Crochet Aid, was particularly helpful. Though it does not hold the work, it still provides a way to take some of the pressure off of your yarn-holding hand, which is also the goal of having a tool hold the work for you altogether. My husband saw the picture and knew that we could make this ourselves, and he did. We got some velcro from WalMart and he adjusted it to fit around my wrist and sewed a simple key ring to it for the yarn to go through. I use an additional key ring around my index finger. You can see how I use it and if you’re a crochet person, you’ll know how it differs from the standard.

Invisible Zee Crochet AidInvisible Zee Crochet Aid 3

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Zee Crochet Aid 2Invisible Zee Crochet Aid 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

This contraption works perfectly! I don’t have to crook my finger around the running yarn and instead of holding the work between my middle finger and thumb, I hold it between my index finger and thumb. This keeps me from holding it too tightly with my thumb, I think because my index finger is stronger than my middle finger and more used to holding things. And an added benefit has been that I maintain a more even tension and therefore make more even stitches. I also crochet very tightly, but the device helps me to loosen up a little and thus more easily match the given gauge of a project. It even lets me “hold” multiple colors at the same time.

It has been an immense relief to find something that enabled me to continue crocheting without causing myself harm and negating its purpose. Even if I don’t go forward with finding something to hold my work as well, I’m happy with what I have right now!

If you’re a crocheter with a health issue that crocheting potentially exacerbates, what adaptations have you been able to use to improve your situation?