What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome

There are eight official symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, these are as follows:

  1. Fatigue that is unexplained and persists for longer than 6 months
  2. Sore throat
  3. Notable cognitive difficulties including loss of concentration and short-term memory
  4. Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpits or neck
  5. Unrefreshing sleep
  6. Pain moving between joints resulting in redness or swelling
  7. Headaches of a previously unexperienced nature, with unique patterns and range of severity
  8. Extreme exhaustion that lasts for longer than 24 hours after mental or physical exercise

The symptoms of CFS will normally appear suddenly. However, some people may develop the symptoms over a number of weeks or even months or after suffering from an unrelated infection such as the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), pneumonia or an upper respiratory tract infection, which induce unusual and prolonged fatigue even after they have resolved.

The symptoms often vary depending on the day and may appear periodically through cycles of remission and relapse. These cycles make it difficult for the symptoms to be effectively managed. 

There are a wide range of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms and as previously mentioned, the core symptoms are further explained as follows: 

  • Suffering from extreme mental and/or physical fatigue for more than 6 months – This can be experienced constantly or in periods as it comes and goes. This type of fatigue is not alleviated with rest and interferes with work and/or any social activities.
  • Feeling unwell and exhausted after physical exercise – The affected individual often feels very weak or ill or the symptoms of CFS are worsened by physical exertion. It can take up to 24 hours or more to feel better.
  • Having issues with sleeping.
  • Suffering from pain that is isolated or widespread across your body - The pain may either move or stay in one place and can consist of:
    • Joint pain
    • Headaches
    • Muscle pain
    • A sore throat

If you have chronic fatigue syndrome then you will suffer from two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Cognitive issues that result in difficulties with language, memory and concentration
  • Being extremely sensitive to noise, light and/or emotions
  • Feeling confused, thinking slowly and/or being disorientated
  • Suffering from issues with muscle coordination and weakness

Chronic fatigue can also result in the below list of symptoms (bear in mind that different people who have CFS may have a variety of different combinations of the below symptoms):

  • Feeling lightheaded and dizzy with an unusually elevated heart rate and feeling out of breath when being physically active
  • Urinating often
  • Nausea
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Low temperature with cold feet and hands, sweating or issues with cold or heat
  • Feeling much worse when under stress
  • Changes in appetite or weight

If one experiences depression with CFS, then this can aggravate symptoms. Depression associated with chronic fatigue syndrome is commonly seen in a number of people for many reasons, some of which include:

  • Feeling tired all the time, experiencing difficulties in thinking and remembering things and having no energy to do the things a person once enjoyed can leave one feeling frustrated, lonely and depressed.
  • Due to the complexity of CFS, the path to an accurate diagnosis is often a long, arduous and expensive one fraught with frustration and despair at not having an answer as to why one is feeling chronically exhausted.
  • In some cases, depression occurs as ill-informed medical professionals, colleagues, friends or family members believe that the sufferer’s condition is 'all in their head', leaving them feeling isolated and as if no one truly understands what they are going through.

Chronic fatigue syndrome results in very similar symptoms that a number of other conditions share, particularly in the initial stage of the disorder. As a result, CFS is only diagnosed after a doctor has conducted a thorough examination and ruled out any other conditions with similar symptoms.  

When to see a doctor about chronic fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom in various illnesses, these include physiological disorders and infections. It is advised that one make an appointment to see a doctor if one suffers from excessive and persistent fatigue that hinders  everyday life.

What is the difference between chronic fatigue syndrome and just feeling fatigued?

CFS is a complicated disorder and many people may have the condition for years and not be accurately diagnosed or treated. The difference between being really tired all the time and having chronic fatigue syndrome is that CFS sufferers experience persistent fatigue lasting for six months or in some cases, more. If fatigue is resolved through a few nights of good sleep or having a relaxing day off of work, then one does not have chronic fatigue syndrome.

Can chronic fatigue syndrome be cured?

There is currently no cure for CFS due to the exact cause being unknown. However, there are a number of treatments that can aid in managing its symptoms.

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