Chronic fatigue syndrome–also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)–is a serious multi-system disease that causes far more than just fatigue. People who suffer from this condition experience severe impairments that can affect their ability to work or engage in daily activities. While there are five key symptoms that can point to diagnosis, patients may also suffer from a number of other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, from pain to vision issues to depression. Here are the most common.
What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a severe condition that affects up to two million people in the U.S.
There are five symptoms that are directly related to diagnosis. These five symptoms, according to the Institute of Medicine, include:
- A severe reduction in your ability to carry out normal everyday activities, accompanied by profound fatigue
- Post-exertional malaise, or a worsening of symptoms after exercise or mental efforts
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Cognitive impairments, like memory loss or confusion
- Orthostatic intolerance, or when your symptoms worsen when standing upright and improve upon laying down
While these are the major chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms that can point to a diagnosis, some patients suffer from additional signs and symptoms. A full chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms list may also include:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- The inability to recover from an infection or sickness
- Abnormal immune functioning
- Sore throat
- Tender or enlarged lymph nodes
- Headaches that are different from others you’ve experienced in the past
- Sensitivity to lights, sounds, or temperature
- Weight or appetite change
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Diminished cardiovascular function
- Blurred vision
- Irritable bowel syndrome
What does chronic fatigue syndrome feel like?
To better show what it’s like living with chronic fatigue syndrome, we sat down with Laura Jane. She’s a vlogger who talks about life with pain, shedding some light on this very-misunderstood condition.
Do I have chronic fatigue syndrome?
Unfortunately, reaching a diagnosis can be a complicated and long process for many patients. Because it shares so many symptoms with other conditions, it’s diagnosed by ruling out similar diseases. However, there is a path to diagnosis.
As HealthLine notes, to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, you must have at least four major symptoms. In addition: “You also must have severe, unexplained fatigue that can’t be cured with bed rest. The fatigue and other symptoms must last for six months or longer.”
You may have chronic fatigue syndrome if:
- You have severe, unexplained fatigue that is severely impacting your quality of life
- You’re suffering from a combination of post-exertional malaise, unrefreshing sleep, cognitive impairments, or symptoms that worsen when you stand upright
- Your symptoms rule out another similar condition, like fibromyalgia or Lyme disease
- These symptoms have lasted for six months or more
You may also be more likely to have CFS if you’re a middle-aged woman. According to some sources, chronic fatigue syndrome is diagnosed four times more often in women than men.
However, many believe that chronic fatigue syndrome is seriously under-reported and under-diagnosed. You should always talk to your doctor or a pain specialist if you believe that you’re suffering from this condition.
Is there a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome?
Unfortunately, no. But there are methods for managing symptoms. As an article in The Atlantic eloquently explained in an interview with David Kaufman, the medical director of the Open Medicine Institute in Mountain View, California:
“Simple diseases work like a chain of dominoes, with a clear cause setting off a series of possible symptoms, which hint at a diagnosis, and, usually, a standard treatment. Click, click, click, you’re cured. Chronic fatigue is more like a pile of pick-up sticks: a giant mess in which no one can see a beginning or end. ‘Most patients begin their history by saying something like, ‘I was totally fine, and I got mono at 19 and I’ve never been the same since,’’ said Kaufman, who later treated Vastag [a patient in the article].’I want to find a single, neat, nice packaged cause. Every day I think I’m less and less likely to find that.'”
Some people who suffer from CFS are housebound or bedridden, long-term or for short periods of time. The majority of patients, however, are able to remain functional with a regime of different medications, therapies, exercise plans, or other interventions.
To learn more about what treatment options are available to you, click the link below. There, you’ll find a doctor who can review your chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms and provide options for finding relief.