Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) - Symptoms and Diagnosis Part 2


You believe you have got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)? You have been feeling very ill for 6 months or more and want to know why, so you can get on the road to recovery. Part 1 of this series gave you an overview of the symptoms of CFS and what it is like to have the condition. This article describes how common CFS is, yet how little understood, and the implications for obtaining an accurate diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. The article also outlines how CFS is diagnosed.

By Jeanne Hugoe-Matthews

How common is CFS?

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects people of all ages, both male and female, from all racial and ethnic backgrounds and from all walks of life. Researchers estimate that around 7.5 million Americans and 150 000 Australians have CFS. In other words, 200-700 people per 100 000 have CFS in the US and also the UK (ie 0.2% to 0.7% of the general population). The prevalence of CFS in Japan is believed to be 1.5%, more than double the UK and US figures.

Who is at risk?

More women than men have CFS, although men can develop the condition. At 522 episodes per 100 000 women, chronic fatigue syndrome is also more common in women than lung cancer (33 per 100 000), breast cancer (26 per 100 000) and AIDS (12 per 100 000).

Finally, more adults than young people have chronic fatigue syndrome and more adolescents have CFS, than children under the age of 12 years.

Lack of understanding

Despite the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome, the illness is generally misunderstood by people who don't have it. In fact, CFS often goes undiagnosed and untreated. For example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) estimate that more than 80% of Americans, suspected of having CFS, have not been diagnosed.

CFS diagnosis

One reason for the low levels of chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis is lack of public awareness of the condition, both within and outside the medical profession. Fortunately, this situation is changing, following efforts by research and support groups to give the condition a higher profile. For example, in 2006, the US CDC conducted a major publicity campaign to highlight the fact that CFS is a real physical condition with distinct symptoms requiring treatment.

The second reason for the low diagnostic rate is that, despite more than a decade of intensive research, doctors still do not know what causes CFS. There isn't a single test to identify the condition. Instead, diagnosis is matter of thorough detective work by doctor and patient alike. This process generally takes some time and requires a number of tests to be carried out.

Testing first excludes other known conditions which could cause your symptoms. A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is reached if your remaining symptoms fit clinical guidelines for CFS (including your having had them for longer than 6 months).

The appropriate tests are mostly available to doctors only, so CFS diagnosis should ideally be undertaken by an understanding doctor with experience in treating people with CFS. Your medical practitioner may also refer you to other health therapists for additional assistance.

Concurrent illnesses

It is entirely possible to have CFS and another health condition at the same time. For example, some people with chronic fatigue syndrome also have depression. This important point is sometimes misunderstood. The good news is that an accurate diagnosis by a knowledgeable doctor will ensure that all presenting conditions are identified and treated appropriately.

Action Tip

If you think you have CFS, it is helpful to consult with a medical practitioner who is aware of the range of tests required for diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can commence a program of treatment.


In summary, chronic fatigue syndrome is a relatively common yet much misunderstood condition. It requires effort, patience and knowledge to diagnose. Nonetheless, it's essential to obtain an accurate CFS diagnosis at the outset (and to identify all presenting conditions), so you can commence an appropriate treatment program as soon as possible.

Jeanne Hugoe-Matthews is an attorney, a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and a Reiki Master Teacher. She has also worked as a manager and adult trainer.

Through her website,, Jeanne answers to your most pressing questions about CFS, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options (medical and alternative therapies) and self-management strategies.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 13, 2009 11:59 PM.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) - Symptoms and Diagnosis Part 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

How to Reduce Fatigue and Help Stop Feeling Tired All the Time is the next entry in this blog.

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