Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Home > Chronic Fatigue Syndrome History

When learning the history of chronic fatigue syndrome, you will find that the condition has become more clearly defined over the course of the last few decades. Although chronic fatigue syndrome has been described over the years under many names with varying definitions and suspected causes, it was not until 1988 that a formal case definition emerged.

An Introduction to the History of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Although the cluster of symptoms we know as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been described over the years under many names with varying definitions and suspected causes, it was not until 1988 that a formal case definition emerged.
 

Early History: Epstein-Barr Virus Syndrome

In the early 1980s, patients with symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, and depression were often diagnosed with chronic Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) syndrome or chronic mononucleosis (mono) syndrome. However, researchers could not isolate EBV as the cause of CFS.
 

A Turning Point in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome History: CFS Emerges

In 1988, in an effort to standardize research definitions, a group of experts led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposed chronic fatigue syndrome to be the new name for Epstein-Barr virus syndrome.
 
The new definition entailed:
 
  • Persistent or relapsing, debilitating fatigue, lasting at least six months, in a person who has no previous history of similar symptoms
     
  • Exclusion of other clinical conditions that may produce similar symptoms
     
  • Occurrence of at least eight symptoms, including mild fever, sore throat, painful lymph nodes, prolonged fatigue after exercise, joint or muscle pain, unexplained muscle weakness, headaches, and sleep disturbance.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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