Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Facts to Know

CFS Fact 1. The typical patient seeking medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a Caucasian woman in her mid-20s to late 40s. However, anyone at any age can develop this illness.

CFS Fact 2. Recent CDC studies indicate that the prevalence rate in adolescents is slightly lower than that in adults. Cases in children under 12 years old appear to be much less common.


CFS Fact 3. Chronic fatigue syndrome does not appear to be a new illness. Relatively small outbreaks of similar disorders have been described in medical literature since the 1930s.

CFS Fact 4. This illness is called "chronic fatigue syndrome" to reflect the most common symptom — long-term persistent fatigue.

CFS Fact 5. There is no published data to indicate that chronic fatigue syndrome is contagious, that it can be transmitted through intimate or casual contact or by blood transfusion, or that people with CFS need to be isolated in any way.

CFS Fact 6. Without objective diagnostic criteria, the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome is difficult to measure. In general, it is estimated that perhaps as many as half a million persons in the U.S. have a CFS-like condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

CFS Fact 7. Chronic fatigue syndrome often begins abruptly, but sometimes the onset is gradual. In about one-third of cases, the sudden onset follows a respiratory, gastrointestinal, or other acute infection with flu-like symptoms, including mononucleosis. Other cases develop after emotional or physical traumas such as bereavement or surgery.

CFS Fact 8. The severity of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms vary with each individual. Besides debilitating fatigue that does not go away even with rest, several common symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • more intense or changed patterns of headaches
  • reduced short-term memory or concentration
  • joint pain without joint swelling or redness
  • sleep that is unsatisfying and fails to refresh

CFS Fact 9. Although chronic fatigue syndrome can persist for many years, long-term follow-up studies indicate that chronic fatigue syndrome generally is not a progressive illness. The symptoms usually are most severe in the first year or two.

CFS Fact 10. No specific diagnostic tests or therapies for chronic fatigue syndrome exist. If your health care professional has diagnosed you with chronic fatigue syndrome, treatment is focused on relieving symptoms.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)