Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a disorder that causes extreme fatigue. It does not go away with rest and it may get worsened by your daily physical and mental activity.

Recovery Time

  • Symptoms may last at least up to 6 months.
  • Unfortunately, in many people, symptoms persist for years.
  • Symptoms tend to be worst in the first one to two years, and most people level of functioning gradually improves over time.


There is no single test to confirm a diagnosis of CFS. It is mostly done by
  • Medical history
  • Physical examination

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  How do u diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome?
Characterized by Persistent or Relapsing Unexplained Chronic Fatigue, characterized by:
  • Fatigue is of new or definite onset
  • Fatigue is not the result of an organic disease or of continuing exertion
  • Fatigue is not alleviated by rest
  • Fatigue results in a substantial reduction in previous occupational, educational, social, and personal activities
Four or more of the following symptoms, concurrently present for 6 months
Impaired memory or concentration, sore throat, tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes, muscle pain, pain in several joints, new headaches, unrefreshing sleep, or malaise after exertion.

Q2.  I am told to do set of exercises, will it help in recovery?
CBT(Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and graded exercise therapy (GET) have been found to be the only beneficial interventions in CFS.
CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach directed at changing condition-related cognitions and behaviors. It includes educating the patient about the etiologic model, setting goals, restoring fixed bedtime and wake-up time, challenging and changing fatigue and activity related cognitions, reducing symptom focusing, spreading activities evenly throughout the day, gradually increasing physical activity, planning a return to work, and resuming other activities. The intervention, which typically consists of 12 to 14 sessions spread over 6 months, helps CFS patients gain control over their symptoms.
GET is based on the model of deconditioning and exercise intolerance and usually involves a home exercise program that continues for 3 to 5 months. Walking or cycling is systematically increased, with set target heart rates.
The primary component of CBT and GET that results in a reduction in fatigue is the change in the patient s perception of fatigue and focus on symptoms.
CBT is generally the more complex treatment, which might explain why CBT studies tend to yield better improvement rates than GET trials.
CBT offered in an early stage of the illness reduces the burden of CFS for the patient as well as society in terms of decreased medical and disability-related costs.

Q3.  Why do I feel better when I go on holiday? 
Many patients report that a change in routine and being away from daily stressors has a beneficial influence on their symptoms. However, others report the change of routine, as well as the journey and preparation for going on holiday, can increase stress levels and have an impact on their symptoms. Being prepared for the latter, taking pre-emptive rest and breaking up the journey can certainly encourage a more enjoyable holiday.

Q4.  How long will it be before I get better? 
It is difficult to predict recovery in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and there is enormous variation even in people with similar degrees of CFS severity. Remaining optimistic and positive is certainly helpful as it is in many chronic illnesses.

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