Testing for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is generally not made until a doctor does a complete physical examination on a patient and then sends the person for a series of medical tests. The excessive fatigue must be around for approximately six months before the doctor will even begin to suspect that CFS is to blame.

Lab Testing

Laboratory tests are generally undertaken first as they are not expensive to do and they are relatively simple for the patient and the results will come back from the laboratory very quickly. These tests generally include a blood count test, thyroid function test, liver function test, urine test and a sedimentation rate.

All of these tests are conducted to rule out any number of other health problems. Be aware however that no laboratory tests whether it be blood, urine, liver or any other kind is able to diagnose CFS simply by the results of that one test.

If any one of these tests comes back abnormal then this still could mean that the person is suffering from CFS but it could be any number of other disorders as well. A doctor then must look closer to other types of health problems.

Exercise Tests

Exercise tests are usually the second step. In general people who are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome are not able to exercise to the same level as those in the general population who do not struggle with the disorder. Exercise tests can help to determine whether a person is suffering from a mild version of CFS or whether it is moderate or severe.

Research studies looking into exercise tests and their benefits to CFS patients have found that those who suffer from CFS have “higher than normal ratings of perceived exertion (RPE)”. What an RPE is is basically the effort it takes energy wise for an individual to exercise.

The scores for RPE can range from 0, which stands for falling asleep to 20, which ranges for maximum all out exertion. Some studies however refute the validity of past studies and have found no significant difference between the two at all.

Tilt Table Test

It was once believed that simply measuring blood pressure was enough to determine whether a person suspected of having CFS suffers from the problem due to a “neurally mediated level of hypotension” which is an abnormal drop in a persons blood pressure. A tilt test can help to determine more.

A tilt test is when a person lies down on a table that is tilted approximately at a 70-degree angle for a specified length of time (this may vary from patient to patient). If the patient feels nauseous, lightheaded, faint or dizzy after a very short period of time then this is a sign of neurally mediated hypotension and thus lends itself closer to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome.

It will be up to a doctor whether he feels it is necessary to send a patient for one of the other tests or a variety. The deciding factors will often be the number of symptoms a person is experiencing and how much their present health condition is affecting their day-to-day life. First however other health conditions must be ruled out, such as depression, pregnancy, fibromyalgia or a variety of bacterial and/or viral infections.