Mononucleosis is an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Infected individuals develop a series of flu-like symptoms four to six weeks after coming into contact with the virus. Some people become infected but remain asymptomatic, while others require a few weeks to fully recover from their symptoms.
One of the first symptoms experienced by people with the Epstein-Barr virus is fatigue. Because symptoms can take four to six weeks to develop, it can be difficult to determine the precise cause of the infection. To make matters more confusing, symptoms are mild in the earlier stages, leading many people to believe they have caught a common cold or the flu. In some cases, the fatigue can linger for several months after the infection subsides.
As the virus develops, individuals may develop a fever. This is one of the main symptoms of the Epstein-Barr virus and often appears together with other flu-like symptoms. A fever develops because the body is working to fight the virus and make itself an inhospitable host. As one’s body temperature rises, he or she may experience other uncomfortable symptoms such as sweating or chills, in addition to fatigue.
Lack of Appetite
Another symptom of the Epstein-Barr virus is a lack of appetite. The infected person may eat less or feel hungry less often, and this can increase as the virus spreads. Because the body is using a lot of energy to fight the infection, it is vital that individuals still receive the nutrients and calories their body needs. A lack of nutritious food can mean a prolonged illness.
The non-specific symptoms of mono and the Epstein-Barr virus can make it difficult to achieve an accurate diagnosis in the early stages. One sign that is common, however, is a rash. Usually developing a few days after infection, the blotchy skin condition can appear on different parts of the body. The rash is usually mild and disappears quickly.
The Epstein-Barr virus can cause a sore throat — this is another common symptom of the illness. White patches may develop on the tonsils, and with the combination of flu-like symptoms, this could lead to a misdiagnosis of strep throat until tests rule this out. People with mono, however, will generally also have swollen lymph nodes in the armpits and neck.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
The presence of swollen lymph nodes may indicate the Epstein-Barr virus. The lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands that help filter impurities from the blood, including viruses and infections. They become swollen when they are working harder in this capacity. Gently massaging areas where lymph nodes exist, such as behind the jaw and in the armpit, can indicate inflammation. Often, these spots will also be tender.
General weakness is a common symptom of many illnesses. Infections cause the body to expend excess energy, as the immune system tries to fight the virus, leaving individuals easily exhausted regardless of sleep quality. While physical weakness is not a clear indicator of an Epstein-Barr viral infection, if it accompanies other symptoms in this list, the individual should see a doctor.
The Epstein-Barr virus can cause sore muscles, which can make general activities painful or even limit movement. Muscle soreness, also known as myalgia, is common with a variety of viral infections and other health problems as well. It isn’t unique to the Epstein-Barr virus. In most cases, rest will alleviate this symptom, and over-the-counter pain medications can also help.
Another general symptom of the Epstein-Barr virus is headaches. Flu-like symptoms often cause head pain due to tension and stress placed on the body as it attempts to fight off the infection.
The Epstein-Barr virus can cause a plethora of physical signs, but it can also cause symptoms of a psychological nature. In rare instances, people develop depression as a result of the infection. [In some cases, the depression can persist for months or even years after the physical symptoms have subsided. Research suggests that the depressive symptoms may be related to the body’s immune response to the virus. Mental health stressors can also cause the virus to reactivate, though in most cases symptoms are less severe upon recurrence.