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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Diagnosing & self-care for ME/CFS

Whakatau me tiaki ake i a koe i te ME/CFS

Bearded man lies in bed feeling unwellDiagnosing 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 diary 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. But 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 pain relief may help ease headaches as well as muscle and joint pain. Your doctor may prescribe stronger pain relief, although they should only be used short-term.

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

Medication for orthostatic intolerance may be helpful if being upright is causing you problems.

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

If you cannot 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, they can be expensive, and they may cause problems with medicines you take. Talk to your general practice team before starting any therapies or supplements.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers and MECFS Canterbury. Last reviewed June 2022.

Page reference: 629837

Review key: HICFS-70801