Medical Definition of Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Last Editorial Review: 1/24/2017

Chronic fatigue syndrome: A debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that lasts 6 months or longer, is not improved by bed rest, and may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Abbreviated CFS. Persons with CFS most often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before the onset of the illness. In addition to these key defining characteristics, patients report various nonspecific symptoms, including weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, insomnia, and postexertional fatigue lasting more than 24 hours. In some cases, CFS can persist for years. The cause or causes of CFS have not been identified, and no specific diagnostic tests are available. Moreover, because many illnesses have incapacitating fatigue as a symptom, care must be taken to exclude other known and often treatable conditions before a diagnosis of CFS is made. Also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

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Last Editorial Review: 1/24/2017