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Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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, 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 6 months in at least 50% of the time. CFS symptoms vary from person to person. The guidelines for diagnosing CFS include, in addition to a 6-month history of fatigue that is not relieved with bed rest, at least 4 of the following 8 symptoms:

  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain without swelling or redness
  • Headaches
  • Trouble with short-term 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:

Revision Information

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome: causes & risk factors. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/causes-risk-factors.html. Updated May 2017. Accessed June 1, 2017.

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/symptoms/index.html. Updated May 14, 2012. Accessed June 1, 2017.

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115094/Chronic-fatigue-syndrome. Updated February 10, 2017. Accessed May 31, 2017.

  • Devanur LD, Kerr JR. Chronic fatigue syndrome. J Clin Virol. 2006;37(3):139-150.

  • Prins JB, van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G. Chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 2006;367(9507):346-355.

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