Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Immune Dysfunction Syndrome)

– A poorly understood illness characterized by pervasive, chronic, and incapacitating fatigue.

Causes and Incidence

The etiology is unknown, although popular theories propose a viral link or an overactive immune system. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a relatively new phenomenon and is most often associated with professionals in their 20s and 30s. The syndrome is diagnosed in women twice as often as in men.

Disease Process



The primary symptom is persistent or relapsing debilitating fatigue that does not respond to bed rest and that reduces normal activity levels by 50% or more for 6 months or longer. Other signs and symptoms include low-grade fever; sore throat; pharyngitis; painful, palpable cervical or axillary lymph nodes; myalgia; arthralgia; sleep disturbances; depression; and inability to concentrate.

Potential Complications

None known.

Diagnostic Tests

No definitive test exists. A clinical evaluation that includes the primary symptom plus six to eight of the other signs and symptoms is the most reliable indicator. Tests to rule out other disorders (e.g., leukemia, lymphoma, underlying psychiatric disorders) are important.


Surgery – None.

Investigational antiviral drugs and immune modulators are under study in clinical trials.

Supportive measures; balanced regimen of exercise and rest cycles; counseling for depression; support groups for coping.