Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Home > Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Because symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can overlap with those of other illnesses, it can be difficult to make a diagnosis. A person may be diagnosed with CFS if he or she has the condition for more than six months, with at least four other symptoms. Doctors diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome will usually review the person's medical history, conduct physical and mental status examinations, and perform lab tests.

Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: An Overview

In order to diagnose a person with chronic fatigue syndrome, doctors will need to:
  • Obtain a detailed medical history
  • Complete a physical examination
  • Conduct a mental status examination, including a short discussion in the office or a brief oral test
  • Perform a standard series of laboratory tests -- including blood and urine tests -- which will help to identify alternative causes of fatigue.
A person will be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome if he or she meets the following two criteria: unexplained fatigue and four or more of the following symptoms (at the same time) for six months or more:
  • Impaired memory or concentration
  • Sore throat
  • Tender cervical or auxiliary lymph nodes
  • Muscle pain
  • Multi-joint pain
  • New headaches
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Post-exertion malaise.
People will be diagnosed with idiopathic chronic fatigue if they have fatigue that is not considered severe or if the symptom criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome are not met. The term idiopathic is used to describe a disease or disorder that has no known cause.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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