Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosis

Expect Lots of Testing

A doctor reviews a chart with a patient.
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Getting a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosis

So far, no medical test is proven to provide an accurate chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis, but some doctors and researchers claim they do have tests that can identify certain subgroups of chronic fatigue syndrome patients. However, these tests have yet to garner the support of the overall medical community.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion.

That means the first step is for doctors to rule out conditions with similar symptoms, including chronic infections such as tuberculosis, mononucleosis or Lyme disease; nervous system disorders such as fibromyalgia; autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus; or psychiatric/emotional conditions. (A diagnosis of depression does not exclude the possibility of chronic fatigue syndrome.)

A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine put forth new diagnostic criteria (along with a new name, SEID) based on their review of more than 9,000 scientific studies. These criteria are similar to the Canadian Consensus Criteria, which advocacy groups have long called for in the U.S.

The new criteria include:

    The previous criteria included fatigue plus four or more symptoms from a list that included all of the above except orthostatic intolerance as well as several other symptoms, including sore throat, joint pain, headaches, and tender lymph nodes. However, it was possible under the old criteria to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome without any of the symptoms (save fatigue) required by the new criteria.

    Learn more about the report: New Name, Criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

    Tracking Your Symptoms

    While they're not required for a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, a complete list of your symptoms can help your doctor diagnose you. It's helpful if you first become familiar with the full range of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms and then start keeping a symptom journal.

    To date, no medical specialty has "claimed" this condition. It's up to you to find a doctor who's knowledgeable about it.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 3 2006. "Diagnosing CFS"

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