Learn More About Chronic Fatigue Symptoms Explained

by Helene Malmsio

Chronic fatigue symptoms can be confusing. Doctors have no way of testing for chronic fatigue syndrome or M.E. so they have to rely on identifying symptoms and then checking that they are not explained by any other disease or condition.

The question is made more difficult because chronic fatigue symptoms can vary from person to person and even from day to day in the same patient.

Not only the severity is different, with good days and bad days, and some people being able to work while others need a wheelchair to get around, but the actual symptoms can be different.

One person may have a lot of pain resembling or perhaps diagnosed as fibromyalgia.

Another person may have little or no muscle pain but suffer from intense headaches.

So what do doctors consider to be the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, in plain English?

The following is a re-wording of the recognized chronic fatigue symptoms used for diagnosis in the USA (set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention*):

1. Fatigue that is persistent for at least 6 months and unexplained by other causes, and

2. the fatigue interferes with normal activities and work, and

3. the patient has at least four of the following symptoms, ongoing for at least the past 6 months:

(a) impaired concentration or memory

(b) post-exertional malaise (feeling exhausted or ill or just ‘not right’ after activity that would not produce exhaustion in a healthy person, often for a long time after)

(c) not feeling refreshed after sleep

(d) muscle pain (myalgia)

(e) joint pain without inflammation or other causes

(f) headaches of a different type or severity to the patient's past experience

(g) frequent sore throat

(h) tender lymph nodes

There is still not much known about the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome so the established chronic fatigue symptoms can vary from country to country.

For example in some countries the list of possible symptoms includes:

(i) sensitivity to light and noise

(j) palpitations that are not explained by cardiac issues

(k) dizziness and/or nausea

(l) alcohol intolerance

The British health system** also differentiates between different severities of the disease.

Keeping in mind that one person may go through all of these levels at different times in the same month or year, this is how they describe life with mild, moderate and severe chronic fatigue symptoms:

Mild: patients are mobile and able to care for themselves (preparing meals, showering etc).

They can do some physical tasks such as light housework, but not as easily as a person in normal health, and requiring rest between activities.

They can probably concentrate well enough to read books and magazines and use a computer, at least for short periods.

They may be able to hold down a job or attend school or college but to achieve this they have probably given up other activities (social activities or hobbies) so that they can spend a lot of their spare time resting.

Moderate: patients are less mobile and are restricted in all normal activities of life.

They are unlikely to be able to work or attend school or college.

They have sleep disturbances and difficulty in concentrating.

They require frequent rests between or during activities.

Severe: patients can do little or nothing for themselves.

They spend most of the time in bed and can probably only move around in a wheelchair, with assistance.

They are likely to be very sensitive to light and noise and would not be able to watch TV, for example.

They have problems with memory and concentration.

They may take a long time to recover from a simple activity like talking on the phone.

If you think that you may have chronic fatigue, see your doctor and if they are not sympathetic, try to find a specialist.

It is important to be correctly diagnosed and have blood tests to exclude other health issues.

Most of the chronic fatigue symptoms can also be symptoms of other diseases that may be serious and may need treatment.

So please do not self-diagnose or rely on the internet, but discuss your chronic fatigue symptoms with a trained medical professional.

* http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/diagnosis/index.html
** http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG53

Learn more about CFS causes, symptoms and natural fatigue remedies when you read the rest of our information here about: How to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS.


Friends and family don't understand chronic fatigue syndrome but we do. We can help you BEAT CFS and give you your life back. Feel normal again!

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