Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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Quick GuideChronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What is the treatment for CFS/SEID?

There is no known cure for CFS/SEID chronic fatigue syndrome; treatment is based on those therapies that reduce the symptoms. In general, patients who are diagnosed within the first two years of symptoms respond better to symptomatic treatment than those patients diagnosed after two or more years of having the disease. Treatments to reduce symptoms are individualized for each patient as no single therapy helps all CFS/SEID patients.

Drug therapies (bupropion [Wellbutrin], sertraline [Zoloft], and other antidepressant drugs) are used to treat symptoms of sleep, pain, and psychological problems. Some have used Adderall (off-label use). Other therapies that are used include stress reduction and lifestyle changes (which may include diet and exercise reduction). Some investigators suggest diet and nutrition play a role and recommend vitamin D, B6, B12, lysine, and glutathione supplements while others do not. Some clinicians may prescribe antibiotics such as metronidazole (Flagyl) or amoxicillin and clavulanic acid (Augmentin) if the patient has high levels of antibodies that react with C. pneumoniae or other organisms. Other treatments that claim some positive effects on CFS symptoms include holistic treatments such as bananas, maca (a plant root from Peru), pau d'arco (herb from the bark of the taheebo tree in Central America), and spirulina (plankton).

Acupuncture and fluorescent-light treatments also are claimed to help CFS patients. Most of these other therapies have not been well studied by experts who treat CFS.

Most clinicians agree that patients with CFS need a team approach to their illness. The most disruptive symptoms should be addressed first. In general, the therapy will be a combination of psychological counseling (to help with the day-to-day burden CFS imposes on the patient's life) and mild guided exercise (a physical therapist might be able to help; care should be taken to not be too strenuous). Cognitive-behavioral therapy seems to work well with pediatric-aged patients.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/27/2015

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