Of the four million Americans who have CFS,
less than 20% have been diagnosed. If you have the symptoms of CFS, you could
have this medical condition, or you could have another illness that shares many
symptoms of CFS. It's important not to delay seeking a diagnosis and medical
care. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
suggests that early diagnosis and treatment of CFS can increase the likelihood
Only a health care professional can
diagnose CFS. If you, or someone you love, is experiencing the symptoms of CFS .
Get diagnosed. Get help.
How is CFS diagnosed?
Because there is no definitive diagnostic
test for CFS, it's a diagnosis of exclusion. Your health care professional will
first take a detailed medical history, then perform a complete physical exam.
Laboratory tests will also be performed to identify underlying or contributing
conditions that require treatment.
The illness can be diagnosed if the patient
meets both of the following criteria:
1. Clinically evaluated, unexplained
persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is of new or definite onset (not
lifelong), isn't the result of ongoing exertion, isn't substantially
alleviated by rest and results in substantial reduction in previous levels of
occupational, educational, social or personal activities.
2. Four or more of the following eight
symptoms, persisting or recurring over at least six consecutive months and not
predating the fatigue:
Postexertional malaise (extreme
exhaustion and/or cognitive difficulties following physical or mental
exertion) lasting more than 24 hours
Substantial impairment in short-term
memory or concentration
Multijoint pain without joint swelling
Headaches of a new type, pattern or
Are there other symptoms?
In addition to the diagnostic symptoms
listed above, patients may experience a variety of additional symptoms. These
- Visual disturbances (blurring,
sensitivity to light, eye pain)
- Psychological problems (irritability,
mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks)
- Chills and night sweats
- Low-grade fever or low body
- Irritable bowel
- Allergies and sensitivities to foods,
odors, chemicals, medications and noise/sound
- Brain fog; feeling in a
- Numbness, tingling or burning
sensations in the face or extremities
- Difficulty retaining upright posture,
dizziness, balance problems and fainting
Who can diagnose and treat CFS?
Physicians, nurse practitioners and
physician assistants can all diagnose CFS when they are familiar with the
illness. Diagnosis doesn't require referral to a specialist, but people with CFS
may not want to limit their health care team to a primary care physician. Many
medical professionalsóincluding rheumatologists, pain specialists, allergists,
occupational therapists, psychologists, rehabilitation specialists, exercise
physiologists and nurse practitionersówork with CFS
There's no diagnostic test or biomarker for
CFS, so other medical conditions must be ruled out before a diagnosis of CFS can
be established. Chronic fatigue syndrome can resemble many other illnesses,
including mononucleosis, chronic Lyme disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis,
fibromyalgia, primary sleep disorders and severe obesity. Major depressive
disorders must also be ruled out. Although CFS is not a form of
depression, many patients develop secondary depression as a result of dealing
with a chronic and debilitating illness.
Because CFS can resemble so many other
disorders, it's important not to self-diagnose CFS. It's not uncommon for people
to mistakenly assume they have chronic fatigue syndrome when they have another
illness that needs to be treated. If you have CFS symptoms, consult a health
care professional to determine if any other conditions are responsible for your
symptoms. A CFS diagnosis can be made only after other conditions have been
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