There's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Because the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can mimic so many other health problems, you may need patience while waiting for a diagnosis. Your doctor must rule out a number of other illnesses before diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome. These may include:
- Sleep disorders. Chronic fatigue can be caused by sleep disorders. A sleep study can determine if your rest is being disturbed by disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or insomnia.
- Medical problems. Fatigue is a common symptom in several medical conditions, such as anemia, diabetes and underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Lab tests can check your blood for evidence of some of the top suspects.
- Mental health issues. Fatigue is also a symptom of a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. A counselor can help determine if one of these problems is causing your fatigue.
To meet the diagnostic criteria of chronic fatigue syndrome, you must have unexplained, persistent fatigue for six months or more, along with at least four of the following signs and symptoms:
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- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle pain
- Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
- Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: General information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/general. Accessed April 20, 2011.
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- Gluckman SJ. Clinical features and diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 20, 2011.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: Causes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/general/causes/index.html. Accessed April 20, 2011.
- Vincent A (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 4, 2011.
- Jones JF. Chronic fatigue syndrome. In: Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-0986-5..C2009-0-38984-9--TOP&isbn=978-1-4377-0986-5&about=true&uniqId=236797353-5. Accessed April 21, 2011.
- Gluckman SJ. Treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 20, 2011.
- White PD, et al. Comparison of adaptive pacing therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, graded exercise therapy, and specialist medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome (PACE): A randomised trial. The Lancet. 2011;377:823.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of chronic fatigue syndrome. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed April 22, 2011.
- Chronic pain and CAM: At a glance. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm. Accessed April 22, 2011.
- CFS toolkit. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/toolkit/index.html. Accessed April 22, 2011.