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What Is Chronic Mononucleosis?

Chronic mononucleosis is a persistent form of the typically short-term illness known as mono, or the "kissing disease," caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It's characterized by ongoing fatigue, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. Understanding its impact on long-term health is crucial. How might this condition affect you differently than the common bout of mono? Join us as we examine the implications.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Chronic mononucleosis is an Epstein-Barr virus infection that remains active for more than six months. During this period, the patient can feel fatigued, feverish, and weak. It usually resolves after several months, although some cases may last for years. Evaluation of patients diagnosed with chronic mononucleosis shows that some actually have other conditions. It is important to receive a thorough evaluation when this diagnosis is suspected, to confirm it and determine if the recommended course of treatment is appropriate.

The Epstein-Barr virus is quite common, and many people are exposed to it early in childhood. Some people develop infectious mononucleosis in their teens if they haven’t had the infection earlier in life. Patients carry the virus with them, and may experience periodic recurrences when their immune systems are low or they are stressed. In rare cases, the virus remains active for six months or more, causing continuing symptoms, rather than going latent after causing the initial infection.

Chronic mononucleosis symptoms may include extreme fatigue and weakness.
Chronic mononucleosis symptoms may include extreme fatigue and weakness.

Patients with chronic mononucleosis can have all the symptoms of an active infection, including sore throat, coughing, and extreme fatigue. The fever can make it hard to concentrate or perform tasks, while weakness and fatigue may limit the patient’s activity levels. Treatments can include pain management medications, antiinflammatory drugs, and rest to help the patient recover. Some people need to take time off from work or school because they have trouble staying awake through the day or can’t do their work effectively.

A sufferer of chronic mononucleosis may have all the symptoms of an active infection, including a sore throat.
A sufferer of chronic mononucleosis may have all the symptoms of an active infection, including a sore throat.

In cases where a patient may have chronic mononucleosis, a lab test can confirm the presence of an active Epstein-Barr infection. If this infection is not present, the patient has another condition. One possible cause of the symptoms is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Cases of CFS can appear similar to chronic mononucleosis in onset; the patient experiences flu-like symptoms, feels very unwell, and develops intense fatigue that persists despite rest and treatment.

Kissing is one way to catch mononucleosis, also known as the "kissing disease."
Kissing is one way to catch mononucleosis, also known as the "kissing disease."

Other conditions can also cause symptoms like fever and fatigue. When there is no presence of Epstein-Barr infection, the doctor may request some additional testing to rule out other options before considering CFS. The patient might have leukemia, for example, which sometimes begins with extreme tiredness and fever. Testing can determine the specific cause of the symptoms, which may have a substantial impact on treatment recommendations. Patients should make sure to discuss their symptoms in detail, even if issues don’t appear specifically related, because they might provide important clues for the doctor.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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    • Chronic mononucleosis symptoms may include extreme fatigue and weakness.
      By: Tatyana Gladskih
      Chronic mononucleosis symptoms may include extreme fatigue and weakness.
    • A sufferer of chronic mononucleosis may have all the symptoms of an active infection, including a sore throat.
      By: Kalim
      A sufferer of chronic mononucleosis may have all the symptoms of an active infection, including a sore throat.
    • Kissing is one way to catch mononucleosis, also known as the "kissing disease."
      By: SerrNovik
      Kissing is one way to catch mononucleosis, also known as the "kissing disease."