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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Medications

Medicines do not cure chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). But they can help relieve your symptoms.

Medication choices

Over-the-counter medicines include:

  • Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs: Over-the-counter drugs include acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol), ibuprofen (for example, Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (for example, Aleve). They sometimes relieve frequent or severe joint and muscle pain, headaches, and fevers. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Talk to your doctor if your pain is not relieved by nonprescription medicine.

Prescription medicines include:

  • Anticonvulsants, also called antiseizure medicines. This type of drug, such as gabapentin and pregabalin, is sometimes prescribed for pain and sleep problems. It seems to work best when used for nerve pain.
  • Antidepressants. Antidepressant medicine is prescribed by a doctor to ease depression and anxiety, improve your ability to concentrate, and help you sleep better.
  • Narcotics. Narcotic medicine, such as tramadol, codeine or morphine, is sometimes prescribed by a doctor for pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter drugs. A narcotic is generally reserved for the most severe cases. Because of the risk of addiction, it is used only for a short time.

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 don't 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.1

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 feel depressed, talk to your doctor and get treatment .

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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