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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Chronic fatigue syndrome


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis
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How might chronic fatigue syndrome be treated?

Treatment options for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are limited.[1] Treatment is largely supportive and is focused on the specific symptoms present in each individual.[2] In most cases, symptoms of CFS lessen over time.[3]

Many therapies have been tried, but only cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy reportedly appear to produce meaningful benefit. CBT typically involves a series of one-hour sessions designed to alter beliefs and behaviors that might delay recovery. Graded exercise therapy can be beneficial because prolonged lack of exercise may worsen the symptoms of the condition.[1][3] Gradual introduction of regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging, under close medical supervision may reduce fatigue and improve physical function.[3] Because many people who have CFS are also depressed, treating the depression can make it easier to cope with the problems associated with CFS. Low doses of some antidepressants may help improve sleep and relieve pain.[4]

A number of medications, special diets and vitamin supplements have been evaluated in individuals with CFS, but none have been proven effective.[2][3] Although there have been a number of viruses that were initially reported to cause CFS, additional studies have not proven this.[1] Trials of antiviral agents have been ineffective in relieving the symptoms of CFS.[2]
Last updated: 10/14/2013

  1. Stephen J Gluckman. Treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate; 2013;
  2. Burke A Cunha. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Medscape Reference. July 13, 2012; Accessed 10/14/2013.
  3. Margaret-Mary G. Wilson. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Merck Manuals. December 2008; Accessed 10/14/2013.
  4. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Mayo Clinic. June 18, 2011; Accessed 10/14/2013.

Management Guidelines

  • The National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) is a public resource for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. The NGC was originally created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in partnership with the American Medical Association and the American Association of Health Plans.

Clinical Trials & Research for this Disease

  • lists trials that are studying or have studied Chronic fatigue syndrome. Click on the link to go to to read descriptions of these studies.
  • Orphanet lists clinical trials, research studies, and patient registries enrolling people with this condition. Click on Orphanet to view the list.