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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 (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

Revision Information

  • 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.