No medications are specifically approved to treat CFS. However, some medications may be useful for pain or other symptoms, or in cases in which CFS has a specific medical cause. Doctors generally use combinations of drugs to accomplish specific goals, such as medication at night to improve sleep and medication in the morning to improve cognition and energy. Treatment is very individualized.
Mild Pain Relievers
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Patients with CFS may benefit from using NSAIDs -- common pain relievers that reduce pain and inflammation. Types of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, Naprelan, Anaprox).
Patients should use only the lowest effective dose, because high dosages of NSAIDs can cause heart problems (such as increased blood pressure and risk of heart attack), kidney problems, and stomach bleeding. Patients who are at increased risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers should either switch to another type of pain reliever, or take the NSAID along with a proton-pump inhibitor drug, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) or esomeprazole (Nexium), or with misoprostol (Cytotec). (Misoprostol can cause miscarriage and should not be used by women who may be pregnant.)
People with high blood pressure, severe circulation disorders, or kidney or liver problems, as well as people taking diuretics or oral hypoglycemics must be closely monitored if they need to use NSAIDs on a long-term basis. Because NSAIDs reduce blood clotting, NSAID users who are scheduled for surgery should stop taking these drugs a week before the operation. Other side effects of NSAIDs include:
- Ringing in the ears
- Skin rashes
- Possibly depression
Review Date: 01/10/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.