Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Test

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by chronic exhaustion that affects the quality of your life. The fatigue does not go away even after adequate sleep or rest. Most people who have CFS have other symptoms as well, such as joint pains, muscular pains, poor concentration, disturbed sleep patterns and headaches. What causes this condition is not clear and it is not easy to diagnose it either. The problem is that you may have normal test results even when you have it. Your doctor will work closely with you to rule out other conditions first to make a diagnosis.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Tests

There is no single test available to help make correct diagnosis for CFS. But a self-assessment is available here. In the absence of a reliable test for chronic fatigue syndrome, the doctor has to rule out other conditions to determine if CFS is the leading problem in your case. Your doctor may order laboratory and imaging tests to get to a conclusion.

Laboratory Tests

Your doctor asks for laboratory tests to ensure you do not have other fatigue-causing diseases. They usually order the following tests:

  • Adrenal, thyroid and liver function tests
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) which helps identify if there is inflammation in your body
  • Antibody tests which help determine if you have had any infection in the past, such as Chlamydia or Lyme disease

Imaging or Scans

Along with ordering a chronic fatigue syndrome test, your doctor may also perform the following imaging studies.

  • They may order an MRI or CT scans to ensure you do not have any disorder of the central nervous system. If you only have CFS, your MRIs and CT scans will be normal.
  • They may also order positron emission tomography and single-photon emission computed tomography scans to see if your brain is getting enough blood. Restricted blood flow may lead to short-term memory problems which are common in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Diagnostic Criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Your doctor will order tests only when you meet diagnostic criteria. It means you should have persistent, unexplained fatigue for at least six months with other symptoms. Here is more about these symptoms:


Persistent tiredness or fatigue is the most common symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The extreme exhaustion lasts for more than 24 hours after mental or physical exercise and keeps you from living comfortably. The tiredness you experience in CFS will not go away with rest, is different from everyday tiredness, is not due to muscle weakness, is not like tiredness after over-exertion, and is not accompanied by loss of pleasure or motivation.

Other Symptoms

In addition to fatigue, there will be some other symptoms as well.

  • You will experience cognitive difficulties, such as bad short-term memory, poor concentration and reduced attention span. You may also find it difficult to organize your thoughts and feel disorientated.
  • You will experience sleeping difficulties. Some people are unable to sleep while others may face issues such as early waking or disrupted sleep/wake patterns.
  • You will notice muscular pains, headaches and joint pains as well.

Some people with CFS have also reported some other symptoms, such as palpitations, nausea and dizziness.

Severity of the Symptoms

Although the symptoms remain the same, their severity may vary from patient to patient. Before ordering a chronic fatigue syndrome test, your doctor will also consider the severity of your symptoms.

  • Mild

If your symptoms are mild, you will be able to do light domestic tasks with some difficulty. Still, you will be able to complete your jobs.

  • Moderate

If your symptoms are of moderate intensity, you will have reduced mobility and find it extremely difficult to perform your daily activities. You will also need rest periods in between tasks. You may also experience sleeping difficulties.

  • Severe

People with severe symptoms are only able to perform minimal daily tasks, such as cleaning teeth and face washing. It will be difficult to concentrate on anything. People with severe CFS symptoms are usually wheelchair-dependent or spend more time in bed.

Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There are treatment options but they are only going to help relieve certain symptoms.

1. Medications

Your doctor will first consider your specific symptoms to prescribe medication. In most cases, they may give you low doses of antidepressants. Sleeping pills may also be prescribed to help you fall asleep at night.

2. Therapy

Your doctor will also recommend therapy and usually follow a two-pronged approach that uses the combination of gentle exercise and psychological counseling.

  • Graded Exercise

You will have to work with a physical therapist to determine what types of exercises you can do with ease. It usually starts with stretching and range-of-motion exercises that you need to perform for a few minutes a day only. You should not exercise too much in the beginning or you will feel exhausted the next day.

  • Psychological Counseling

It always helps talk with a counselor to understand how you can get around certain limitations imposed by CFS. Counseling will help make you feel more in control of your life, which in turn will improve your outlook as well.

3. Self-Care Measures

After taking chronic fatigue syndrome test and being confirmed of the condition, you need to take some self-care measures. It is a good idea to develop a plan to limit emotional stress and overexertion. Always give yourself enough time to relax each day. You need to know the needs of your body and know when you are stretching it a bit too far. Do not sleep during the day and avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. If you have a good day, do not do too much or you will have no strength left to go through a bad day. 

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