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HealthInfo Canterbury

Diagnosing & self-care for ME/CFS

Bearded man lies in bed feeling unwell Diagnosing myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) can be difficult because the symptoms of ME/CFS are similar to several other medical conditions, which need to be ruled out first. There are no specific tests available to diagnose ME/CFS yet.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and how they affect your life, including work or school. They may ask you to keep an activity journal to identify any patterns between your activity and symptoms.

For your doctor to diagnose you with ME/CFS, you need to have the following key symptoms:

And either:

Self-care for ME/CFS

Currently there is no specific treatment for ME/CFS. Managing your activity level, good self-care and getting help with symptoms can improve your quality of life. Consider trying the following things:

Medication and other help for ME/CFS

Some medications are useful for treating the symptoms of ME/CFS.

Over-the-counter painkillers may help ease headaches as well as muscle and joint pain. Your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers, although they should only be used short-term. You may be referred to a pain management clinic if you have long-term pain or fibromyalgia.

Medication for sleep may be helpful if you have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep.

Medication may be useful if you are experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of living with ME/CFS, and other approaches such as counselling and support from a patient group haven't helped.

If you can't get outside much, talk to your GP about getting the right amount of vitamin D.

As well as your GP, people who can help with ME/CFS include:

Some people choose to use alternative therapies for ME/CFS. There is no evidence that they help and they can be expensive. Talk to your GP before starting any therapies or supplements.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by MECFS Canterbury advisors. Page created May 2019. Last updated September 2020.

Page reference: 629837

Review key: HICFS-70801