Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

by Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate

By Karen Lee Richards, ChronicPainConnection Lead Expert

Chronic fatigue syndrome (also called myalgic encephalopathy or ME/CFS) should be diagnosed by a physician who is familiar with the illness and regularly treats ME/CFS patients.

Because the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome closely resemble several other illnesses, it is important that the doctor run tests to rule them out. A few conditions that are similar to and/or may occur along with ME/CFS include:

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus)

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Chronic Lyme disease

  • Mercury poisoning

  • Depression

  • Lupus

  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

  • Leaky gut syndrome

  • Primary sleep disorders

  • Gulf War syndrome

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has developed the following criteria for diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome:

  1. Unexplained, persistent fatigue that's not due to ongoing exertion, isn't substantially relieved by rest, is of new onset (not lifelong) and results in a significant reduction in previous levels of activity.

  2. Four or more of the following symptoms are present for six months or more:

  • Impaired memory or concentration

  • Postexertional malaise (extreme, prolonged exhaustion and sickness following physical or mental activity)

  • Unrefreshing sleep

  • Muscle pain

  • Multi-joint pain without swelling or redness

  • Headaches of a new type or severity

  • Sore throat that's frequent or recurring

  • Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes

More information on More info on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosis


"Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," MayoClinic.com, 2005.

"Diagnosing CFS," Center for Disease Control, 5/3/06.

Karen Lee Richards
Meet Our Writer
Karen Lee Richards

Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She writes for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.