Factors Complicating the Diagnosis of ME/CFS

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

  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. For some patients with ME/CFS, it may not be obvious to healthcare providers that they are ill. Patients are most likely to come to clinic on the days that they are feeling their best.
  4. The illness has a pattern of remission and relapse, which can be unpredictable.
  5. Symptoms vary from person to person in frequency and severity. Those most severely affected by ME/CFS may not seek care because they are too ill to come to a clinic. Others may worsen over time and become unable to visit their healthcare provider.
  6. The complexity and duration of the illness or prior healthcare experiences can contribute to communication difficulties between patients and healthcare providers.
  7. There is a lack of adequate education about and acceptance of the illness in the medical community.

These factors have contributed to a low diagnosis rate and continued stigma and suffering caused by this illness. A healthcare provider can make the diagnosis of ME/CFS based on a thorough medical history and physical examination, laboratory test results (see Evaluation), and evaluating for other fatiguing illnesses with a targeted work-up.

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.