Symptoms of CFS

Although its name trivializes the illness as little more than mere tiredness, chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) brings with it a constellation of debilitating symptoms.

CFIDS 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.

Persons with CFIDS (PWCs) have symptoms that vary from person to person and fluctuate in severity. Specific symptoms may come and go, complicating treatment and the PWC's 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 PWCs contend.

Other Common Symptoms

The primary symptoms described in the CDC's case definition are listed above. Also common to CFIDS are cognitive problems such as difficulties with concentration and short-term memory, word-finding difficulties, inability to comprehend/retain what is read, inability to calculate numbers, and impairment of speech and/or reasoning. PWCs 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); menstrual 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; feeling in a fog; fainting; muscle twitching; and seizures.  Reprinted from The CFIDS Association of America, Inc.(

CFS/FM/MCS Symptom Survey
This survey is a list of symptoms, categorized by type, of those commonly experienced by people with CFS/FM/MCS. While these symptoms are also experienced occasionally by healthy people, the frequency and severity of their occurrence in people with CFS/FM/MCS is dramatically increased from their occurrence before they became ill.

Please visit our Articles and Links pages to find out more about CFS.

To request more information please contact the Wisconsin Chronic Fatigue Association.