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ME/CFS Symptoms

Many ME/CFS patients may have periods when they feel better and can leave their house to do normal activities, such as shopping at a grocery store or running other errands. Then suddenly, the energy drains out of them, and they must sit down, even on the floor of a public place if necessary.

The biological abnormalities found in ME/CFS patients are in the  immune system, brain, hormone levels, cardiovascular system, metabolism, infection activity and gene activity. As a multi-system disease, no one biological test is used for diagnosis.

What if I have ME/CFS?

People with ME/CFS will often have different symptoms, possibly due to which system is more affected in each patient, differing infection activity in each patient and possibly the stage of the disease. The symptoms may appear suddenly, sometimes as a wave coming over the person's body. Or the symptoms may come gradually, over years. Infections, such as mononucleosis, are common triggers of ME/CFS.

While researchers and government health agencies use different diagnostic criteria, the following pattern of symptoms are now recognized as occurring in these patients:

  • Post-exertional neuro-immune relapse and fatigue, which is an increase of fatigue and other flu-like symptoms after physical or mental exertion, occurring right after the activity, 24 hours after it or 48 hours after the activity. This "crash" can last hours, days or weeks.
  • Cognitive dysfunction, including challenges in processing new information, memory lapses, unable to multi-task, getting “wires crossed” and difficulties in demanding mental tasks such as math.
  • Long-term fatigue that brings at least a 50% reduction in prior activity level without another explainable cause.
  • Temperature control problems, including night sweats or cold sensitivity.
  • Pain, including headaches, sharp pains and aching muscles.
  • Immune system dysfunction symptoms or infection symptoms, including sore throat, sensitivities to medication and tender lymph nodes.
  • Sleep dysfunction, including insomnia, requiring more than 8 hours sleep and reverse sleep patterns.
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure or suddenly-dropping blood pressure). A few have high blood pressure.
  • Weight changes, loss or gain.
  • Loss of balance, dizziness and/or vertigo.
  • Muscle weakness.

A more complete list of symptoms can be seen here.

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

Last update: May 25, 2014
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