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How To Diagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Updated: June 16, 2006

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Since there is not a specific lab test that reliably identifies chronic fatigue syndrome, and because CFS closely resembles other illnesses (e.g., mononucleosis, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis), the first diagnostic step usually involves a series of tests that will help the physician rule out other illnesses. Once other disorders have been excluded, the next step is to evaluate the patient according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) following diagnostic criteria.
Difficulty: N/A
Time Required: Because other illnesses must first be excluded, getting a diagnosis can take several months.

Here's How:

  1. The patient must have severe chronic fatigue of six months or longer duration with other known medical conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis.
  2. The patient must concurrently have four or more of the following symptoms:
      • Substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration
      • Sore throat
      • Tender lymph nodes
      • Muscle pain
      • Multi-joint pain without swelling or redness
      • Headaches of a new type, pattern or severity
      • Unrefreshing sleep
      • Post-exertional malaise (deep fatigue and exhaustion following physical exertion) lasting more than 24 hours


  1. The symptoms must have persisted or recurred during six or more consecutive months of illness and must not have predated the fatigue.

    Source: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome MayoClinic.com, 2005

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