Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

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Many lists of chronic fatigue syndrome (aka ME/CFS or SEID) symptoms only contain a few symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle pain and exercise intolerance. However, this condition involves a lot more potential symptoms that can impact just about any part of the body.

Knowing all of the possible symptoms can help you in a few different ways:

  1. It can help your doctor diagnose you properly;
  2. Tracking them can help you identify symptom triggers;
  1. It can help you see that you're not the only one experiencing these problems.

Some items in the list are labeled as overlapping conditions, which means they're separate conditions that commonly occur in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. These conditions often need to be diagnosed and treated separately, so talk to your doctor about them.

Many people with this illness have symptoms that come and go and to vary greatly in severity from day to day, week to week, or month to month. Other people may have constant symptoms with very little change over time.

Also, each person has his or her own mix of symptoms, so it's rare to find two cases that are just alike. You may find people with this illness whose symptoms are so vastly different from yours that you wonder if you both do, in fact, have the same illness.

Sadly, it's common for people to be told by others with this illness that they can't possibly have chronic fatigue syndrome and still hold a job, or work out, or have a social life, etc.

Rest assured that all ranges of symptoms and severities are possible with this disease.

Symptoms with an asterisk are included in the CDC diagnostic criteria.

Sleep & Energy-Related Symptoms

  • Incapacitating fatigue*
  • Post-exertional malaise* (extreme fatigue after exercise, lasting 24 hours or more)
  • Poor stamina

Flu-Like Symptoms

  • Pain in joints without swelling or redness* (can be constant or move between joints)
  • Muscle aches* and/or weakness
  • Sore throat*
  • Headaches of a new type, pattern or severity*
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • Low-grade fever or low body temperature
  • Chronic cough
  • Nausea
  • Recurrent flu-like illness

Other Pain/Sensation-Related Symptoms

  • Morning stiffness
  • Earache
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as an overlapping condition (abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, bloating)
  • Numbness
  • Tingling and/or burning sensations in the face or extremities (paresthesia)
  • Chest pains (Always treat chest pain as a serious condition warranting immediate medical care.)
  • Jaw pain (possibly TMJ, as an overlapping condition)

Cognitive Symptoms (Brain Fog)

  • Short-term memory or concentration problems*
  • Word-finding difficulties/impaired speech (dysphasia)
  • Inability to comprehend or retain what is read
  • Inability to calculate numbers
  • Impaired reasoning
  • Spacial disorientation
  • Mental fogginess

Psychological Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings

Sensitivities & Intolerances

Cardio & Respiratory Symptoms

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Neurally mediated hypotension (dizziness & balance problems upon standing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent, hard to treat respiratory infections

General Symptoms

  • Visual disturbances (blurring, light sensitivity, eye pain, worsening vision, dry eyes)
  • Chills & night sweats
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry mouth & eyes (called sicca syndrome)
  • Rashes
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), as an overlapping condition
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Muscle twitching
  • Seizures
  • Recurrent infections
  • Frequent canker sores
  • History of herpes simplex or shingles
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), as an overlapping condition
  • Endometriosis, as an overlapping condition

Knowledge is Power

Now that you know how many symptoms can be tied to your illness, it's important to keep that knowledge in perspective. It might make you anxious to think about all the symptoms you could develop someday, but keep in mind that no one has them all.

Instead, think of this list as something to give you comfort. If all these symptoms have one root cause, you can look at them all as one illness instead of a few dozen different problems. Each treatment that improves your condition may help alleviate numerous symptoms.

On top of that, some of these conditions seem downright weird! It can help your peace of mind to know you're not the only one experiencing them.

Sources:

2006 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Symptoms".

2006 The CFIDS Association of America, Inc. All rights reserved. "Symptoms".

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