A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is based on the following criteria: Severe, chronic fatigue that lasts for at least 6 months in 50% of time and is not due to another illness or medical cause
At least 4 of the following 8 symptoms:
Impairment of short-term memory or concentrationSore throatTender lymph nodesMuscle painJoint pain without swelling or rednessHeadachesSleep that is not refreshingProlonged fatigue lasting 24 hours or more after exercise
If you have these symptoms, your doctor will conduct more tests. The tests will look for other causes of the symptoms. This may involve:
Your doctor will ask you for a detailed medical history. A complete physical exam will be done.
Standardized Lab Tests
You will receive a standard series of tests. This should help your doctor identify other possible causes of illness. If no cause is identified, your doctor may make a diagnosis of CFS.
The number and type of tests may vary depending on your history. The following tests are often used to exclude other causes of fatiguing illness:
Specific blood tests can be used to evaluate: Liver functionKidney functionCalcium levelsRed and white blood cell, and platelet counts—complete blood count (CBC)Electrolyte levels, such as salt and potassiumInflammation—erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)Glucose levelsPhosphorus levelsThyroid function—thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)Total protein levelsIron levels—transferrin saturationUrinalysis
A urinalysis may be done to check for abnormalities in the urine.
If one of the tests above suggests an illness, your doctor may order more tests. This is done to confirm an illness other than CFS. Additional testing may be done to look for: Lyme disease
Your doctor may want to assess the impact of CFS on certain mental skills. You may have tests for your concentration, memory, and organization. You may also be given a personality assessment. This can help to determine your coping abilities. It is also done to identify any coexisting affective disorders. This includes
panic disorder, or other
Chronic fatigue syndrome: diagnosis & tests.
American Academy of Family Physicians Familydoctor website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/diagnosis-tests.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed December 28, 2012.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) diagnosis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/diagnosis/index.html. Updated May 16, 2012. Accessed December 28, 2012.
Craig T, Kakumanu S. Chronic fatigue syndrome: evaluation and treatment.
Am Fam Physician.
Devanur LD, Kerr JR. Chronic fatigue syndrome.
J Clin Virol.
Prins JB, van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G. Chronic fatigue syndrome.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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