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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.

Your Question

I have chronic fatigue syndrome. I want to know the about the latest research on treatment.

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

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

Where can I learn about the latest research on treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome?

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the National Library of Medicine, developed to provide patients, family members, and members of the public with current information on clinical research studies. Currently, a number of active, recruiting, or completed clinical trials are listed for chronic fatigue syndrome. To view these trials, go to and enter
"chronic fatigue syndrome" as your search term. You can use each study’s contact information to learn more about the ones that interest you. This site may be checked often, as it is regularly updated.

You can also find relevant articles about treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome through PubMed, a searchable database of biomedical journal articles. Although not all of the articles are available for free online, most articles listed in PubMed have a summary available. To obtain the full article, contact a medical/university library or your local library for interlibrary loan. You can also order articles online through the publisher’s Web site. Using "chronic fatigue syndrome treatment" as your search term should help you locate articles. View a sample search of articles about treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome here.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Web site has a page for locating libraries in your area that can provide direct access to these journals (print or online). The Web page also describes how you can get these articles through interlibrary loan and Loansome Doc (an NLM document-ordering service). You can access this page at the following link You can also contact the NLM toll-free at 888-346-3656 to locate libraries in your area.
Last updated: 10/14/2013

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.