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Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may occur suddenly after you have a cold, bronchitis, hepatitis, or an intestinal infection. Symptoms may follow a bout of infectious mononucleosis (mono), which is caused by a virus that temporarily saps your energy. CFS can also begin after a period of high stress. Sometimes it develops more gradually, with no clear illness or other event noted as a starting point.

Unlike flu symptoms that usually go away in a few days or weeks, symptoms of CFS persist or recur in cycles for at least six months in 50% of time. CFS symptoms vary from person to person. Since 1994, the guidelines for diagnosing CFS include, in addition to a six-month history of fatigue that is not relieved with bed rest, at least four of the following eight symptoms:

  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain without swelling or redness
  • Headaches
  • Trouble with short-tern memory or concentration, forgetfulness, or confusion
  • Sore throat
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Trouble sleeping or not feeling rested after sleep
  • Worsening symptoms 24 hours or more after exercise

In addition to the eight diagnostic symptoms, patients with CFS can also suffer from:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Chronic pain
  • Irritable bowel
  • Low blood pressure
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sensitivity to many chemicals

References:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms. American Academy of Family Physicians Familydoctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed December 28, 2012.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/symptoms/index.html. Updated May 16, 2012. Accessed December 28, 2012.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated November 10, 2012. Accessed December 28, 2012.

Devanur LD, Kerr JR. Chronic fatigue syndrome. J Clin Virol. 2006;37:139-150.

Prins JB, van der Meer JW, et al. Chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 2006;367:346-355.



Last reviewed December 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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