Is it Chronic Fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

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“Chronic fatigue” is a symptom, referring to continuing significant fatigue that lasts for months. It can be the result of a variety of ongoing or chronic conditions and illnesses (for example hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, anemia), nutritional deficiencies, sleep disorders like apnea, chronic pain, depression, and other health issues. Ongoing fatigue lasting at least six months is a characteristic symptom of CFS, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, in CFS, the fatigue is typically more severe, and accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • increased malaise (extreme exhaustion and sickness) following physical activity or mental exertion
  • problems with sleep
  • difficulties with memory and concentration
  • persistent muscle pain
  • joint pain (without redness or swelling)
  • headache
  • tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit
  • sore throat

Other symptoms common in CFS include:

  • brain fog (feeling like you’re in a mental fog), poor concentration
  • difficulty maintaining an upright position, dizziness, balance problems or fainting
  • allergies or sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, medications, or noise
  • irritable bowel
  • chills and night sweats
  • visual disturbances (sensitivity to light, blurring, eye pain)
  • depression or mood problems (irritability, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks)
  • flu-like feeling
  • low tolerance for exercise or exertion

A knowledgeable physician can do the testing to evaluate the potential causes of fatigue, and rule in (or out) the possibility of chronic fatigue syndrome. For more information, read this article on chronic fatigue syndrome, and see this video from Good Morning America, featuring Kent Holtorf, MD.