Student Life with CFS/ME: How to Get Through University

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME. Many people refer to this condition simply as CFS/ME. According to the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, the difference between people with CFS/ME and the general population is found primarily in their energy metabolism systems.

An estimated 15 to 30 million people worldwide, including 2,500,000 Americans, are affected by this condition. The effects of this disease are devastating enough to leave at least 25% of patients bed-bound. A particularly important aspect of illness management is to help students continue their education and stay connected with their friends.

This condition, however, is tough for university students, especially when there are so many activities and opportunities around. Sometimes, simply attending classes can be a strain on their health. Here are some pieces of advice for starting university and, at the same time, dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome here in Salt Lake City.

Understand the symptoms of the disease

Understanding symptoms of the disease is the first step to helping students and healthcare providers identify their limitations early on in clinical care. These limits are often referred to as the “energy envelope.”

Also, determining their mental and physical individual limits are essential for students to be able to play their day and stay within these limits. In general, patients should not push themselves beyond their capacities as this may trigger the worsening of symptoms.

Keep things organized

Memory problems often plague people with CFS/ME. They have trouble remembering things, thinking, and paying attention to details. Patients often say they have “brain fog” to describe this problem. To some patients, problems with thinking and memory can be managed to some extent.

This is by using notebooks and organizers to record information, schedules of lectures, assignment deadlines, due dates for library books and even people’s names. As with any physical activity, students should employ careful planning of cognitive activities to avoid mental overexertion.

Careful planning of schedules and strategic periods of rest after any anticipated activity is crucial to avoid PEM or post-exertional malaise, which is the worsening of symptoms that could last for days or even weeks.

Exercise right

Man joggingIn general, the human body benefits from exercise. For people with CFS/ME, however, exercise has been thought to pose real problems. But recent studies have proven that exercise therapies can reduce the severity of symptoms as well as improve functional outcomes.

Note that exercise recommendations for CFS/ME patients are not the same as those for healthy people. In fact, a 30-minute jog may cause many functional patients to crash. Exercises for people with CFS/ME usually start at very low doses and will vary greatly from patient to patient.

One requirement for students trying out graded exercise therapies is to have a good understanding of their limits and how their symptoms can be managed through activity pacing.

Find support and ask for help

As many as half of patients with CFS/ME develop depression at some time during the course of their illness. That is why strong support systems are very important to people with this debilitating and misunderstood condition.

Additionally, students should keep regular contact with their support teams so they can have someone to run to, particularly if they are struggling.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a complicated disorder that leaves about 25% of those affected bedridden. For university students who are struggling with this disease, following the guide above and coming up with a system that works should help them manage their symptoms better and get through student life easier.

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