Factors affecting ME/CFS diagnosis

What to know

Diagnosing ME/CFS can pose unique challenges for healthcare providers. Some of the reasons are how the disease presents, how it changes over times and providers' unfamiliarity with the disease.

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Complicating factors

For healthcare providers, diagnosing ME/CFS can be complicated by a number of factors. These include:

  1. There is no lab test or biomarker for ME/CFS.
  2. Fatigue and other symptoms of ME/CFS are common to many illnesses.
  3. Some patients with ME/CFS may not appear obviously ill.
  4. The illness is unpredictable with remissions and relapses.
  5. Symptoms vary in frequency and severity among different patients.
  6. Severely affected patients may be too ill to go to a clinic.
  7. Some medical professionals may not accept that ME/CFS is "real".

Patients often report negative experiences in seeking healthcare. They also may struggle to explain their illness as symptoms can worsen and shift over time. These factors, along with a general lack of education about ME/CFS among healthcare providers can make diagnosis difficult.

As a result, many patients with ME/CFS are not diagnosed or are diagnosed only after many years of illness. Patients with ME/CFS face continued stigma and suffer because of the lack of appropriate healthcare.

A healthcare provider can make the diagnosis of ME/CFS based on:

  1. Thorough medical history
  2. Physical examination
  3. Laboratory test results (see Evaluation)
  4. Targeted work-up to evaluate for other fatiguing illnesses.
  • Disclaimer: The content of this ME/CFS website is for informational purposes only and does not represent a federal guideline or recommendation for the treatment of ME/CFS. The information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for the medical judgment of the healthcare provider and does not indicate an exclusive course of action or treatment.