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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Symptoms and Wrong Diagnoses

Abstract: Before diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), one must exclude somatic disorders causing tiredness.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Symptoms and Wrong Diagnoses

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Written by: Dr. Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 22 Jul 2008.

What are typical symptoms of Chronic fatigue syndromes (CFS)?
Do all patients with chronic fatigue have a chronic fatigue syndrome?


Fatigue or lack of energy is a rather unspecific clinical symptom. Many people think they might have a clinical diagnosis of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) after they read or hear about the symptom presentation in the media (including the Internet) or by a friend or relative. However only about 1/3 of these patients actually meet the medical diagnostic criteria of CMF. The main reason for wrong self-diagnosis is the fact that other medical diagnoses or other relevant psychiatric problems are not carefully evalated and excluded.

To meet the diagnosis of chronic fatigue one has to have severe impairment for at least 6 months or longer with

exclusion of other medical conditions (e.g. insomnia, sleep apnea, thyreoid disorders, anaemia, tumours) AND 4 or more of the following problems

  • severe impairments in short term memory and concentration
  • sore throat
  • tender lymph nodes
  • muscle pain
  • multijoint pain without swelling or other signs of acute infection (red skin, hot surface)
  • headaches (new quality and pattern)
  • unrefreshing sleep
  • malaise of more than 24 hours after exercise of physical activites

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