Although its name trivializes the illness as little more than mere tiredness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), brings with it a constellation of debilitating symptoms.
CFS is characterized by incapacitating fatigue (experienced as profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina) and problems with concentration and short-term memory. It is also accompanied by flu-like
symptoms such as pain in the joints and muscles, unrefreshing sleep, tender lymph nodes, sore throat and headache. A distinctive characteristic of the illness is post-exertional malaise, a worsening of symptoms following physical
or mental exertion occurring within 12-48 hours of the exertion and requiring an extended recovery
The symptoms of CFS are highly variable and fluctuate in severity, complicating treatment and the ill personís ability to cope with the illness. Most symptoms are invisible, which makes it difficult for others
to understand the vast array of debilitating symptoms with which people with the illness must contend.
Other Common Symptoms
Additional symptoms are reported by people with CFS (PWCs) such as word-finding difficulties, inability to
comprehend/retain what is read, inability to calculate numbers and impairment of speech and/or reasoning. PWCs may also have visual disturbances (blurring, sensitivity to light, eye pain, need for frequent prescription
changes); psychological problems (depression, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, personality changes,
mood swings); chills and night sweats; shortness of breath; dizziness and balance problems; sensitivity to
heat and/or cold; alcohol intolerance; irregular heartbeat; irritable bowel (abdominal pain, diarrhea,
constipation, intestinal gas); low-grade fever or low body temperature; numbness, tingling and/or burning
sensations in the face or extremities; dryness of the mouth and eyes (sicca syndrome); gynecological problems including PMS and endometriosis; chest pains; rashes; ringing in the ears (tinnitus); allergies and sensitivities to
noise/sound, odors, chemicals and medications; weight changes without changes in diet; light-headedness;
mental fogginess; fainting; muscle twitching; and seizures.
For More Information
Although the CFIDS Association of America does not dispense medical advice on the diagnosis or treatment of CFS, or similar conditions, we do have an interactive questionnaire to familiarize site visitors with the symptom patterns and exclusions that can lead a health care provider to make a diagnosis of CFS.
To complement the wealth of information available on the Associationís websites, we offer free, downloadable Fact Sheets on a variety of topics to help people better understand the complex nature of CFS, engage in more meaningful conversations with their health care providers and make informed choices about CFS-related decisions. Easily reproducible, these Fact Sheets are ideal for distribution to health care professionals, family members and the general public.