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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Chronic fatigue syndrome

*

* Not a rare disease

Other Names for this Disease
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Treatment

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How might chronic fatigue syndrome be treated?

Treatment options for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are limited.[9440] Treatment is largely supportive and is focused on the specific symptoms present in each individual.[1] In most cases, symptoms of CFS lessen over time.[2]

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.[2]

Graded exercise therapy can be beneficial because prolonged lack of exercise may worsen the symptoms of the condition and should be discouraged.[9440][2] Gradual introduction of regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging, under close medical supervision may reduce fatigue and improve physical function. The goal is to have 30 minutes of light exercise five times a week. To avoid overexertion it is recommended to set a target heart rate range, generally <100 beats per minute. Graded exercise should be always supervised by a physical therapist or exercise therapist. In some studies, women with this condition were found to have low normal fitness on treadmill testing with no indication of heart or lung problems. Maximal testing did not result in worse fatigue or other symptoms.[2]

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.[6269]

A number of medications, special diets and vitamin supplements have been evaluated in individuals with CFS, but none have been proven effective.[1][2] Although there have been a number of viruses that were initially reported to cause CFS, additional studies have not proven this.[9440] Trials of antiviral agents have been ineffective in relieving the symptoms of CFS.[1] Several clinical trials aiming to find effective treatment are currently ongoing.
Last updated: 8/4/2015

References
  1. Burke A Cunha. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Medscape Reference. February 15, 2015; http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/235980-overview. Accessed 8/4/2015.
  2. Margaret-Mary G. Wilson. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Merck Manuals. December 2008; http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/print/special_subjects/disorders_of_unknown_cause/chronic_fatigue_syndrome.html. Accessed 8/4/2015.


GARD Video Tutorial

  • Finding Treatment Information - A video developed by GARD Information Specialists that explains how you can find information about treatment for a rare disease.

    Finding Treatment Information

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

  • ClinicalTrials.gov lists trials that are studying or have studied Chronic fatigue syndrome. Click on the link to go to ClinicalTrials.gov to read descriptions of these studies.
  • Orphanet lists European clinical trials, research studies, and patient registries enrolling people with this condition. 
Other Names for this Disease
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.