What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E./CFS)?

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E./CFS)?
Spread the love

This illness is to fatigue what a nuclear bomb is to a match. It’s an absurd mischaracterization.”
– Laura Hillenbrand, battling CFS, bestselling author of Seabiscuit


World Health Organisation ICD classification of “Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis”:
a specific condition under the code: ICD-10 G93.3


About CFS / M.E.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.).   According to Statistics Canada, 341,126 Canadians have had a doctor diagnose them with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.   That survey was conducted with the findings just released.   

There’s no cause known for certain, no cure, but there are good things one can do to improve patient health.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Guidelines

Peer-reviewed and published, an international panel of experts, led by Canada, set a Concensus on Diagnosis and Treatment, spear-headed in Canada by the ME/FM Action Network.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E./CFS)?


1999 DePaul University Prevalence Study (Chicago):

Leonard Jason, PhD, building on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other research institutions, this DePaul group found that about 900,000 Americans would meet the very stringent case definition for CFS, although only 10% would have been properly diagnosed.   Jason Leonard is now engaged in a follow-up study with the original Chicago co-hort, providing an opportunity to follow the course of the illness over time.   Jason Leonard is considered one of the top CFS researchers in the world, measured in terms of funding and peer-reviewed publications.

To put this into perspective, CFS/ME is:

  • almost twice as common as Multiple Sclerosis
  • five times more common than AIDS.

Key symptoms include:

  • profound exhaustion
  • extreme joint/muscle pain and headaches
  • severe thinking and memory dysfunctions
  • a depressed immune system

CFS is a serious and complex illness that affects many body systems. The cardinal characteristic of CFS is a debilitating pathological exhaustion not reversed by rest, no matter how much one has. This situation results in a substantial reduction of previous levels of activity. In order to be clinically diagnosed with CFS, an individual must meet both of the following criteria:

  1. clinically evaluated, unexplained persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is of new or definite onset, is not the result of ongoing exertion, is not substantially alleviated by rest and results in substantial reduction of previous levels of occupational, educational, social or personal activities; and
  2. four or more of the following key symptoms are concurrently present for 6 months or longer:
    • substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration (attention deficit, memory lapses, frequently using the wrong word, spatial disorientation);
    • sore throat;
    • extreme joint and muscle pain without swelling or redness;
    • headaches of a new type, pattern or severity;
    • unrefreshing sleep (hypersomnia or insomnia, nightmares);
    • painful lymph nodes;
    • post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E./CFS)?

Profound exhaustion, the hallmark of the disorder, can come on suddenly or gradually and persists or recurs throughout the period of illness. Unlike the short-term disability of an acute infection, CFS symptoms by definition linger for at least 6 months and often for years.

CFS often begins abruptly, but sometimes the onset is gradual. In about one-third of cases, the sudden onset follows a respiratory, gastrointestinal, or other acute infection with flu-like symptoms. Other cases develop after emotional or physical traumas such as bereavement or surgery.

M.E./CFS is recognized by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms have been well documented and there is scientific evidence of immunologic, neurologic, and metabolic dysregulation.

Views from the USA
Today, there is a new national awareness of chronic fatigue syndrome. Every month, the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta receives more than two-thousand calls inquiring about CFS. People at the Center are now believers and they are seeing and charting the path of a growing epidemic. It is now estimated that 1-2 million Americans have some form of this disorder and an astounding hundred billion dollars in productivity is lost each year as a result of this pervasive syndrome.

The CFIDS association in the USA is the leading US group, and works closely with the CDC to advance research and education.

Dr. David Bell, formerly on the FM-CFS Canada Medical Advisory Committee, produces a free online newsletter for CFS patients.   Dr. Bell is considered one of the world’s leading CFS experts, with a special emphasis on children.